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^rcseitteb to 

of tl]C 

Pntincrsity of Coronto 

An Anonymous Donor 



By Dean and Mrs. Butcher 

ARMENOSA OF EGYPT : A Romance of the Arab 
Couquest. By C H. Butchkr. Blackwood. 
4s. 6d. net. 

THE ORIFLAMME IN EGYPT : A Romance of the 
Ninth Crusade. By C. H. Butcher. Dent. 
4s. 6d. net. 

Two volumes. By E. L. Butcher. Smith and 
Elder. IGs. 

THE COPTIC CHURCHES. Pamphlet for Tourists. 
By E. L. Butcher. 6d. net. 


Memoir of the late Dean Butcher. With some 
sermons. Dent. 4s. Gd. net. 

All these may be obtained in Cairo. 

Xew Yori. 


The ladies are out for an airing ; they are passing the tombs ot bygone 
INIoslem rulers. 




j I 





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By E. L. butcher 

With 50 Illustrations 
"Mrs. Butcher is thoroughly conversant with her 
subject . . . excellently written." — Globe. 



With 50 Illustrations 

" A charming addition to the series . . . thoroughly 
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With 50 Illustrations 

" By a writer who adds grace and style to entire 
familiarity with the country and people." — The Bir- 
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With go Iliitstrations 

"An attractive volume ; the photographs with which 
it is illustrated are admirable. The subjects give a 
very fair idea of the beauty and charm of a fascinating 
country." — Manchester Guardian. 


/^^-' 688573 






A Land of Light - - - - 15 

Home Life - - - - - 31 

Provincial Life - - - - 72 

The Workaday World - - - ll6 


The Ancient Faith . _ . 137 





Some Egyptian Festivals - - - 147 

The Five Cities - - - - 187 

On the Nile .... 206 


The Southern Province - - - 231 

In the Desert ... - 240 


A Ship of the Desert outside Cairo - Frontispiece 

Carving a Statue _ . - page xiii 

The First Pyramid ever constructed - To face page 16 
A Native Cargo Boat on the Blue 

Nile - - - - „ 20 

Evening at Philae - - - „ 32 
The Harem Windows of a Wealthy 

Cairene's House - • • j^ 38 

A Street Scene at Esneh - • ,, 42 

A Street Scene at Luxor - • „ 48 

An Arab Village - - - ,, 54 

An Arab Village Street - - ,j GO 

Water Buffaloes - - - „ 66 
On the Way to the Pyramids from 

Cairo - - - - „ 72 

List of Illustrations 

Unloading Sugar-Cane • - To face page 78 

Feluccas, or Native Boats, on the 

Nile at Cairo - - - „ 84 

On the Banks of the Nile - - ,, 88 

A Group of Bisharin at Assouan - ,, 92 
How the Mails are carried in the 

Desert - - - - „ 96 
A Bisharin Home in the Arabian 

Desert - - - - „ 100 

Water-Carriers at Luxor - - ,, 106 
The Most Beautiful Colonnade in 

Egj-pt - - - - „ 112 
'ITie Interior of Queen Nefertari's 

Tomb - - - - „ 118 

The Deserted Temple at Luxor - „ 124 

Statues of Ramses XL at Luxor - „ 128 

A Nile Boat under FuU Sail - - „ 132 

A Cairo Snake-Charmer • - „ 138 

An Arab Big \\'heel - - - ,, 1*4 
The Statue of Ramses II., an Em- 

hellishment of his now vanished 

Temple at Memphis • - „ 148 


List of Illustrations 

Queen Hatasu's Temple at Thebes 
Cairo from the Mokattam Hills 
The Nile .... 

ilie Crew of a Dahabeah 
The Nile Bank at Wady Saba 
One of the Colossi of Thebes - 
Thebes and the Nile, from Karnak - 
The Temple of Seti I. at Thebes 
Native Methods of ^^'orking at 

Karnak . - - - 

The Valley of the Tombs of the Kings - 
The Avenue of Sphinxes at Karnak - 
The Bazeiar at Assouan 
Assouan and Elephantine Island 
The Island of Philae • 
The Assouan Dam ... 
The River at Korosko 
The Grotto Temple of Abu Simbel 
Nile Boats, and Temple of Abu 

Simbel - - - - „ 232 

A Caravan on its Way across the 

Desert • - - - „ 236 


face page 


































List of Illustrations 

The Great Pyramid of Gizeh - - To face page 2iO 

A Group of Natives at the Ancient 

Temple at Wady Saba - ,, 244 

The Sixty-five Feet High Portrait- 
Statue of Ramses II. - - ,, 248 

Painting a Statue - - _ at end 


Things Seen in Egypt 



EGYPT has been aptly called the Land of 
Paradox, a country full of charming contra- 
dictions, of bewildering surprises, of grim 
tragedy, and farcical humour which reminds one of 
Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas. But, looking 
at the outer aspect of the country, we may say that 
Egypt is pre-eminently a land of light. One does 
not realize at first how much the charm of Egyptian 
scenery depends on the transparent sunlight which 
we are now doing so much to destroy with the 
fogs and smoke of Western civilization. A tourist 
who for the first time thunders across the Delta in 
his corridor express on a winter day may find 
little beauty in the long monotonous lines of the 
mud-coloured plain with patches of dull green 
crops. But the sun shines out, and straightway 
the whole scene is transformed. The little canals 
shine like ribbons of silver on the purple earth, the 
field of half-grown clover becomes a shimmer of 

Things Seen in Egypt 

translucent emerald, and the little children, in 
their nondescript robes of red and yellow and pink, 
come out like butterflies to join their blue-shirted 
fathers or their black-veiled mothers. The low 
range of sandhills in the distance assumes in- 
describable shades of pink and saffron in the trans- 
forming light, and the far-off grove of palms grows 
blue by contrast. The white dome of a Sheikh's 
tomb shines out from among the piled-up hovels 
of a native village, and a wheeling flock of pigeons 
becomes a moving constellation of stars in the blue 
depth of the sky. A long string of camels pace 
the neighbouring " gisr," or raised bank, with 
their usual air of supercilious indifference as the 
noisy innovation rushes by. 

At first sight there does not seem to be much 
change here in the last half-century. In spite of 
steam-pumps and Western machinery', one still 
sees everywhere the shadoof or tlie sakeer at 
work when the Nile has gone down and the water 
needs to be raised to the level of the fields. The 
sakeer is at work the whole year round, but many 
of the shadoofs are only used when the Nile is 
very low. Then you may see a tier of three or 
four one above another, each worked by a man or 
two men, who in summer are often without any 
clothing at all, except an almost invisible loin- 
cloth. They pull the rope down between them 
and toss the basket or bucket of water into the 
reservoir above them, whence it is taken in the 
same way by the man above them. The sakeer is 

.v,... I /,,(,,;.•, ; .It .: : indon &• New York. 


This picture also shows one of the earliest of man's occupations. These 
gaunt sheep find some pasture near the adioining village of Sakkara. 

A Land of Light 

a heavy cojTged wheel, generally of sycamore- 
wood, to which a cow or bullock is harnessed, with 
a cloth bound over his eyes to keep him in the 
circle. The cog-wheel turns another at right 
angles which has earthen jars bound upon it, and 
this goes down into the water, bringing the jars 
up full and sending down the empty ones. Some 
of these sakeers are made to serve also as rough 
sundials. Pieces of wood are set in the ground 
round the circle, and as the shadow moves it marks 
the hour for the peasants in the neighbourhood. 

The ancient Egyptian year was divided not into 
four seasons, but three — the time of the inundation 
or Nile flood, the time of sowing, and the time of 
reaping. Under the English engineers the Nile 
is being brought gradually under control, as it 
used to be in the days of the Pharaohs. Soon, it 
is said, basin irrigation will be a thing of the past, 
but one of the most picturesque aspects of Egypt 
will go with it. Visitors are rarely early enough 
to see the beautiful exj^anse of water which turns 
so much of the country round Cairo and elsewhere 
into a vast lake. The villages — all, it will be 
noticed, built on slightly rising ground — rise like so 
many islands out of the water, and flat-bottomed, 
heavily laden boats ply between them. It is one 
of the most beautiful times in the year, especially 
when the whole western sky glows with the deep 
pure red of an Egyptian autumn sunset, and is 
reflected on the waveless world of water. Then 
you may go to Sakhara without trouble, or the 

19 B 

Things Seen in Egypt 

necessity foi* donkey-boys. You may step into the 
boat at Bedreshayn, and glide noiselessly over the 
open lake and through the groves of palm-trees, 
standing knee-deep in the water, disturbing only 
the herons from the tiny islets where they stand 
sentinel, and land in the desert within a walk of 
the Tombs. 

But in the Turkish days the uncontrolled flood 
sometimes did much damage ; an extra rise of a 
few feet spelt ruin and disaster everywhere. I 
remember such a flood shortly after I went to 
Egypt in which no fewer than 5,000 people are 
said to have been drowned in the diSerent villages 
which were overflowed. In the same year the 
road to the Pyramids was washed away, and there 
were thirteen accidents to the telegraph-linesy?-07« 
bouts sailing over them ! 

The ordinary cargo boat on the Nile is very 
like the boats used on the Lake of Geneva, a 
clumsy but very picturesque object. A boat laden 
with tibbin (chop])ed straw) is like a floating stack, 
for boards are put across the boat which project on 
either side and almost hide her from sight. On 
this the stack is built with the most marvellous 
regularity, as if cut by a knife, and no wind seems 
able to disturb its outline. 

When the floods are gone and the Nile shrinks 
lower and lower in its bed, then you understand 
how Egypt got its name of El Khemi, or the 
Black Land — the Land of Ham, as it is written in 
the Authorized Version. The saturated soil is a 

^^^w»4rt:;i lift^.t^ 

., irm K. Rose. < :■■ .',:,■ 


The "nuggar" is constantly to be seen often laden to the gunwale, and 
Its rigging looliing not unlike a cage. 

A Land of Light 

deep purple black, and on this, before the water 
is really quite gone, the sower goes forth to sow 
his seed. Before many days have passed a faint 
green tinge spreads over the black, and suddenly, 
as it seems, the whole country is a vivid green, 
which the sun turns to gold and perridot. The 
rapid growth of everything is wonderful. I have 
seen land from which the man in charge solemnly 
assured me that he had taken seven crops in 
fifteen months — five of clover, one of sugar-cane, 
and one of something else, which I have forgotten. 
As the river shrinks lower still, and the banks of 
the Nile are revealed, the thritty Egyptian sows 
melon-seed down to the water's lowest edge, for 
this is a crop that can be harvested long before 
the sloping banks will be covered again by the 
rising water. There are several kinds of melons 
in Egypt ; the best is the shammam, but the 
commonest is the batikh, or water-melon, with 
its hard green rind and rose-coloured inside. 
The Egyptians say that open-air bathing should 
begin when the watermelon comes in. Some 
natives use it as a charm to drive away ants from 
their houses. They cut a piece out of the first 
melon brought into the house and suspend it in a 
corner. It is believed that this will effectually 
drive away the ants. "Written on the leaf of 
the water-melon" is a proverbial expression for 
anything widely known. 

When the Nile is at its lowest comes the 
harvest, when a casual observer might think the 
23 B 2 

Things Seen in Egypt 

peasant takes his work very leisurely. But if he 
sleeps a good deal of the day, it is because for 
quite half the month the moon gives him light 
enough to work under more comfortable con- 
ditions. And after that the land is at its ugliest : 
long stretches of bare earth, which the sun is 
rapidly pulverizing to dust ; wide reaches of 
desert sand shimmering white in the noonday 
sun. Still, at evening the clouds of sunlit dust 
make beautiful effects as the flocks of mingled 
sheep and goats follow their shepherd to the 
village along the bank. These raised banks are 
the only roads over the greater part of Egypt, 
and on one side there is generally a canal, which 
is dry for three or four months of the year. 

There ai-e beautiful trees and gardens in Egypt, 
but there are few wild-flowers ; in fact, I think 
there are people who would be tempted to say 
'' There are none," and so pass on. For the Valley 
of the Nile is a fertile country, which has been 
carefully cultivated for centuries, and is too 
valuable to waste in banks or hedgerows, where 
unprofitable flowers might be allowed to flourish. 
To the ordinary traveller the land must appear 
alike without boundaries or hedgerows. It is 
true that almost the only wild-flowers which have 
not been eliminated are of two kinds — those which 
grow in the desert, and those which, in spite 
of constant dredging and drought, continue to 
flourish in the canals. 

Of the two classes, the former are much the 

A Land of Light 

more numerous. The low sand-dunes of the 
northern coast, which look so desolate in the 
sweep of winter winds or in the scorching glare of 
late summer, wake to lite with each returning 
spring, and clothe themselves with a veil of 
beauty. Here are poppies — not the pale scarlet 
of our cornfields — but blood-red against the azure 
sea, and so full of sunlight that their petals seem 
transparent. Here is the waxen blossom of the 
Star of Bethlehem, and that field of cloth of gold 
is a mass of yellow daisies — or should one rather 
call them wild marigolds ? 

As you ride out eastAvard along the coast you 
come to one tiny oasis after another, set like 
enamelled jewels in the golden desert. Often the 
water which has worked the miracle and caused 
the desert to blossom is not visible ; you only 
know it has been there by the blessing it has 
left. Here you must get down and go on your 
knees fully to appreciate the workmanship of the 
fairy carpet underneath the palms. The flowers 
are all on a miniature scale — marigolds the size 
of pimpernels ; mignonette that needs a micro- 
scope to reveal its dainty perfection ; stocks about 
the size of forget-me-nots, which yet manage to 
give out as much fragrance as their giant sisters of 
the garden. Almost all the common flowers of 
English cottage gardens are here in miniature, 
and many more with names known only to the 

In the inland deserts this is not the case : the 

Things Seen in Egypt 

flowers have no familiarity to Englisli eyes, and 
are generally far. less beautiful, though doubtless 
more valuable from a scientific point of view. I 
have seen a large table filled by Professor Schwein- 
furth with masses of desert flowers of different 
kinds, mostly of subdued colouring, and all with 
names longer than themselves. These came from 
the lonely valleys in the stony hills beyond 

Towards the west of Alexandria, beyond the 
stone-quarries of Mex, the flowers grow thickly 
and are larger in size. Here are the purple bells 
of the grape-hyacinth, and the pale lilac of a kind 
of sea-lavender. One may gather about forty 
varieties in a morning's walk, but it is very 
difficult to learn the names of most of them. 
Here, too, straight out of the sand, by the blue 
ripples of the sea, grows one of the most beautiful 
wild-flowers of Egjpt — the white amaryllis. Its 
delicate white flowers seem almost as much out of 
place by the seashore as a lady in white satin 
building sand-castles, and yet this is so truly its 
home that the commonest name for it is the 
Mex lily. 

Near this native village the desert has been 
made to blossom in a more practical fashion. 
Potatoes and tomatoes are two of the vegetables 
most in demand now in Egypt, and the natives, 
always on the alert for any agricultural oppor- 
tunity, soon discovered that they could be grown 
in sand far more profitablv than the spare and 
26 ■ 

A Land of Light 

stunted barley which they had been accustomed 
to raise in patches. But this barren reach of 
coast is a prey to all the winds of heaven, and the 
ordinary native shelter of reeds was found insuffi- 
cient. So they set to work and dug long sandpits, 
like giant furrows, some 3 or 4 feet wide, from 
east to west along the desert. At the bottom 
of these pits the crops now thrive luxuriantly — or 
did when I was last there to see. 

Almost the only exception to these two classes 
of flowers — the desert and the water — is the 
Egyptian wild-rose. It has been largely intro- 
duced of late years into gardens for hedges, and 
is sometimes called the Soudan rose. 

Grasses and rushes of several kinds grow plenti- 
fully in Egypt. There is a silvery grass that 
trembles in soft masses on the banks like a sunlit 
wreath of mist ; there are bulrushes growing by 
the salt lakes of the desert. But the commonest 
and one of the handsomest is the rustling reed 
which grows along the banks of the canals, and 
sends up its plumed head to the height of 10 feet 
to 12 feet ; it is like a coarse kind of pampas 
grass, and one feels that these must have been the 
reeds to which the barber of King Midas confided 
his secret long ago. There is a thistle, too, which 
deserves mention for the beautiful form and mark- 
ing of its leaves — dark green, with a running 
pattern of white lines. 

But the wild-flowers of the water are far more 
beautiful than the wild-flowers of the desert. 

Things Seen in Egypt 

One of these, which has been brought down from 
the Soudan within the last twenty years, has run 
so wild in Egyptian waters that already some 
people find it a nuisance. One of the great ponds 
in the Gizeh gardens became so choked with it 
that the elephant had to be requisitioned to clear 
it out. This is the water hyacinth, a beautiful 
flower something like a hyacinth, but the flowers 
are larger, more delicate, and always of the same 
colour — a delicate lilac deepening into purple at 
the heart of each floweret. The leaves are deep, 
bright green, and stand well out of the water, 
with a globular swelling at the base of the stalk. 
On some of the reaches of the White Nile this 
beautiful flower is said to form an important 
ingredient in the harmful "sudd." It floats upon 
the water, its fern-like roots twine together in a 
thick mass, and in a short time the pond or river 
seems to disappear. 

Then there are three kinds of water-lilies — the 
common white water-lily which we know so well 
on English ponds, and two kinds of the old 
Egyptian lotus. I remember many years ago 
being shown the blue lotus of ancient Egypt as a 
great rarity in Kew Gardens, and was told that it 
had long become extinct in Egypt itself. But it 
flowers in the canals of the Delto now, as it has 
flowered year by year for thousands of years, and 
may be found there by anyone who knows where 
to look for it. The pale blue colour, pointed 
petals, and long, upstanding stem may be recog- 

A Land of Light 

nized at a glance by one familiar with the pictured 
records of ancient Egypt. It is not, however, so 
beautiful as the many-petalled floating cup of 
the common white water-lily, which flowers for 
miles in the canals along the railway route from 

The queen of all Egyptian flowers, however, is 
the great white lotus, but till the last few years 
this bloomed only in forgotten corners of Egypt, 
in waters which washed the feet of those ancient 
towns where hardly one stone is left upon another. 
In obedience to an English command, a plant of 
this royal flower was brought from its splendid 
seclusion and set for the admiration of all men in 
a little lake in Gizeh gardens. Here, year by year, 
when all the tourists have gone and Egypt is most 
lovely, this glorious creature rises out of the 
water like Venus from the sea, and each year 
flowers in greater profusion, till now hai-dly a 
glimpse of the water can be seen in summer, only 
the great green leaves like serried shields set close 
together, and above them, on stems as straight as 
the columns which they suggested to the men of 
old, the white lotus opens her chalices of pearl. 

1 know few more beautiful sights in Egypt than 
this, but only those can see it whose lot is cast in 
Cairo from the end of May to the end of August. 
The lotus grows now in other places within reach, 
but this comparatively secluded spot in the fields 
is where she best loves to hold her court. The 
beautiful heads stand up erect to the brilliant sun- 

Things Seen in Egypt 

shine in countless hundreds above the cool green 
leaves, which are themselves some 2 feet out of 
the water. Round the pond there is a growth of 
low wood, where the black and white kingfisher 
loves to come in the summer evening, now motion- 
less on the drooping branches, now hovering with 
butterfly flight over the glimpse of open water 
between the lilies. When the long, stifling day is 
drawing to its close, and work in the dusty streets 
is over, it is a constant delight to seek the shelter 
of the plane-trees on the edge of this quiet water, 
and linger in the cool green silence to watch the 
dying sunlight fade from off the queenly flowers. 




THE domestic life of the Eg)'ptian is outwardly 
much the same, whether he is Christian or 
Moslem, This is chiefly because centuries 
of oppression have taught the Copt to conform in 
all indifferent matters to the customs of his 
conquerors. With regard to the mass of the 
population, however, it must not be forgotten that 
the real difference between Copt and Moslem is 
one not of race, but of religion. The Moslem 
represents the J-'-g}ptians whose forefathers, to 
escape persecution, renounced the Christian faith 
for that of their conquerors ; adopting also their 
speech and even their very name, for the Moslems 
are generally called Arabs in Egypt, though there 
are hardly any real Arabs in the country. The 
Christians, who have kept their old name of 
Egyptian, though disguised out of all recognition 
(Copt), were first left in a minority in the land 
after the wholesale slaughter of Christians which 
followed on the last great revolt of the Egyptians 
against the Arabs (circa a.d. 830). Every persecu- 

Things Seen in Egypt 

tion since that date has still further lessened their 
numbers by death or apostasy, and in the course 
of centuries they have adopted not the faith, but 
the customs and speech, of their conquerors in 
order to elude obsei'vation as much as possible. 
But they rightly claim that they are the truest 
representatives of the ancient Egyptians, since 
they have been careful to retain purity of race by 
marriage. As, however, in common parlance, the 
Egyptians take the names of the two different 
races, the Moslems calling themselves Arabs and 
the Chx'istians Copts — which has come to signify 
Chnstian Egyptians — it will be more convenient to 
the general reader if we do the same. 

One of the customs common to both which has 
come down to them probably from pre-Christian 
times is connected with their first entrance into 
the world. I have seen the ceremony performed 
by Mohammedans, and a young Copt of my 
acquaintance wrote for me at my request the 
following account of it as performed in his own 
house. I give it in his own words : 

" Four months ago my sister Sophia brought 
forth a female child. The seventh day after that 
of the birth was celebrated by the usual ceremony. 
On the night preceding it many female visitors 
came into our house, and we all sat in the 
drawing-room. Sophia and her baby child were 
amongst us. A basin full of water was brought 
and put in the midst of us. In that basin an 




S P4 

« 3 

Home Life 

empty goollah^ decorated with all the jewellery 
and ornaments of women that were at that time 
in our possession was j)laced. The goollah-was 
clothed in a piece of rich silk cut and made to 
its shape. Beautiful necklaces made of gold, 
diamond ean-ings, bracelets, were all hung round 
its neck. Our women believe that the more 
richly the goollah is dressed, the more fortunate 
the child will become. They spare nothing that 
they are able to lend for the adornment of this 
goollah. They intend by doing this to woo 
Fortune to come and smile over the child in its 
cradle, and when it is in the wide world. The 
act of dressing the goollah was accompanied by 
the sound of tom-toms (native drums) and shrill, 
quavering cries of joy called ' Zaghareet.' Then 
all people present began to choose a name for the 

^ A goollah is a small porous jar for holding water. 
When the British troops came to Egypt in 1882, the old 
harem palace at the citadel was turned into a hospital, and 
is used as such to this day (1908). Some of the English 
ladies who lived in Cairo used to go to see the sick soldiers, 
and various meetings were held, at which we were all asked 
to suggest alleviations. I mentioned that if they were 
supplied with water in goollahs it would be much cooler, 
hesides being less expensive than in glass. At first there 
was a difficTilty, because no one present appeared to know 
what I meant by a goollah. Lady Baring, whose visitors 
•we were, finally produced one from the back regions to 
explain. Then a very charming young lady rose to im- 
prove upon the suggestion. She wished every ward to be 
supplied with gasometers ! Further bewilderment on the 
part of the assembly ! It was eventually discovered that 
she meant gasogenes. 


Things Seen in Egypt 

new-born child. We brought three candles of 
the same material and of equal length, and stuck 
them to the edge of the basin. We then gave 
each candle of the three a name which we had, 
after our long discussion, chosen. At the time 
of naming the candles my uncle offered a short 
prayer, after which all of the three candles were 
lit exactly at the same moment. We then enter- 
tained all our friends with a nice supper, as usual 
on other occasions of festivities. Supper over, we 
all gathered round the basin, joked and foretold 
a thousand happy things that were to happen to 
the child, until the three candles were nearly 
burnt out. We watched them as they were 
dying away, and waited with impatience to see 
which candle would burn longer than the other 
two, for the name it represented became the 
child's name. The midwife of the family was 
present all through the ceremony, and when the 
name was decided upon she took the goollah. j)ut 
it upon a tray, and presented it to each of the 
women, who put their ' nukoot ' (money) for her 
into the tray. 

'• In the morning the midwife brought the child, 
wrapped in a handsome shawl, and put it on her 
knee. Then one of the women present took a 
brass mortar and struck it repeatedly with the 
pestle as if pounding, to accustom the child to 
noise, that it might not be frightened afterwards 
by the music and other sounds of mirth. After 
this the child was put into a sieve and shaken, 

Home Life 

it being supposed that this operation is bene- 
ficial to its stomach. The mother was then 
ordered to step seven times over the sieve. Each 
time she did so the midwife struck the mortar 
with the pestle once, and addressed the child, 
saying : ' Don't cry when your mother is busy in 
cleaning the house ;' ' Let her cook easily ;' 
'Don't trouble her while she is making bread;' 
'When she has a hand-work to do, close your 
eyes and sleep,' and many other valuable com- 
mandments and instructions, each sentence being 
hammered home with a blow upon the mortar. 
This being done, we began the procession. The 
object of this procession was to carry the child 
through all the apartments of the house so as to 
make its spirit at home in these places. The 
procession was conducted in this way : The 
mother bore her child in her arms and stood in 
the middle. She was then surrounded with 
women and children, each of whom bore several 
wax candles, of various colours, cut in two, lighted 
and stuck into a small lamp, or a paste of henna 
upon a small round tray. The midwife at the 
same time carried a grate on her head with fire 
in it, and walked in front. She sprinkled upon 
the floor of each room, and threw into the fire 
some salt, saying as she did this, 'The foul salt 
be in the eye of the envier !' This ceremony of 
the sprmkling of salt is considered a preservative,^ 
for the child and the mother, from the Evil Eye. 
On the door of every room that had been visited 

Things Seen in Egypt 

by the procession a cross was painted. The 
children cried at the top of their voices, saying, 
' Thy hands and thy feet, a golden ring in thine 
ears,' etc. When the procession had completed 
its round in the house, it came again into the 
room from which it began. The child, wrapped 
up and placed on a fine mattress, was shown to 
each of the women present, who, looking at its 
face, said, 'In the name of the Cross! In the 
name of the Father and Son ! God give him 
long life !' and put an embroidered handkerchief, 
with a gold or silver coin tied up in one of the 
corners, on the child's head or by its side. The 
midwife then distributed cakes, dried fruits and 
sweetmeats, to all of us. Some hazel-nuts had 
been put in the water of the basin the night 
before this day ; each member of the family kept 
one of these hazel-nuts in his purse of money to 
preserve it from being empty. This ceremony is 
now going out of use, after it has been practised 
for a long time by nearly all Egyptians, both 
Copts and Mohammedans. But still we practise 
it ; old customs are still living in our house." ^ 

' Reading Abd-el-Melik's letter, I remember that this 
ceremony was once performed for the child of an English 
woman iu Egypt. The charming young lady referred to in 
connection with gasometers married in due course, and 
aft r some yeare she brought forth her firstborn son in her 
father's house in Egypt. She was so much beloved by the 
native servants that they broke through their usual reserve, 
and insisted that their "sitt's " baby must be properly wel- 
comed into the world. They were all Mohammedans, so 


> Co/'yrii;h/. Uiideiivood &- i'. London ;}" Xew \\ 


The outside of the houses of the rich in Cairo give no idea of their interior 
beauty. This is the courtyard of such a bouse. 

Home Life 

The Moslem women, as is well known, are 
never supposed to see any men except their 
husbands and immediate relations, and are kept 
strictly to their own apartments, or harem. The 
Christian women mingle freely with the other 
members of the household and any man brought 
into it by the head of the house, who is, however, 
very careful to whom he extends this privilege. 
But they are not supposed to speak to visitors, 
unless invited to do so for some special reason ; 
and the young girls stand till they are bidden to 
sit down. Slaves are rare in Coptic households 
— personally I have never seen or heard of one — 
and less common than they used to be in Moslem 
ones, as they are becoming difficult to get. It is 
not uncommon for a rich Moslem lady, generally 
a Turkish one, to oifer to adoj)t a European girl- 
child, and provide for her handsomely. But 
Europeans need to be very careful how they 
accept such an oflfer for anyone belonging to 
them. The child would be kindly treated, but 
in some cases it would merely mean that a white 

that this custom is one of many which has come down alike 
to Christian and Mohammedan descendants of the ancient 
Egyptians. But in the case of the Mohammedans it was 
the men, and not the women, who made the procession. 
They came into her bedroom at the due time, and the Eng- 
lish woman smiled trustfully at them as they bore away the 
precious babe, and carried it up and down, in and out of 
every place in the gi-eat house with the proper ritual neces- 
saiy for its happiness in a strange world. 

41 C 

Things Seen in Egypt 

slave had been acquired for the harem without 

The rite of circumcision is of course enjoined 
as a rehgious duty among Mohammedans ; among 
the Copts it is sometimes practised as a matter of 
health, but without any disgusting display or 
publicity. The wedding ceremonies differ also, 
as the seclusion of the Moslem women renders 
necessary. I have often heard Europeans talk 
of going to a Moslem wedding, but I never yet 
heard of any outsider except myself and one other 
woman wlio had seen the actual ceremony. It 
is performed in comparative privacy, and none 
but men are supposed to be present. Two rows 
of men sit opposite to each other, the bride- 
groom and his friends on one side, the man who 
does proxy for the bride, with his companions, 
on the other. A fiki (schoolmaster) marries the 
two men, solemnly joining their hands, over 
which a handkerchief is placed to represent the 
marriage canopy. The bride is supposed to be 
somewhere within hearing, and to acknowledge at 
the critical moment that she accepts the man re- 
presenting her as her proxy. In the case of a Coptic 
wedding, the custom, under Moslem dominion, had 
become something like the Mohammedan usage. 
The first part of the marriage service would be gone 
through solemnly with the bridegroom alone, sit- 
ting in his wedding garment with an empty chair at 
his side, while the poor little bride peeped at her 
own wedding from behind the door. But when that 

Home Life 

part of the service came for which her responses 
were necessary, she was solemnly brought in, 
veiled much like an English bride, but supported, 
as if she were unable to walk, by a man on either 
side, and in the rest of the ceremony she took 
her proper part. Now she is recovering still 
more of her ancient freedom, with the full 
consent and encouragement of her mankind. 
Christian weddings are now often solemnized in 
the church instead of in the house, as considera- 
tions of safety rendered necessary in the old days. 
Both Christians and Moslems make the Zeffet el 
Hamman, or procession of the bath. The bride 
is dressed in gala attire, and, attended by all her 
female relations and friends, preceded by a band 
of musicians. If a Moslem, and unable to afford 
a carriage, the bride is enveloped in a shawl from 
head to foot, so completely covered as a rule that 
she cannot see where she is going, and has to 
be guided by her friends. The only difference 
between the two was that, until the English 
came, the Christians could not venture to make 
their processions by light of day or with sound of 
music, but moved through the streets at dead of 
night, and carrying torches. The second proces- 
sion is when the bride is taken from her own 
home to that of the bridegroom. In these days 
even the poorest people in the large towns try to 
afford a close carriage for the bride on this occasion ; 
and in the case of a poor Moslem they will combine 
it, from motives of economy, with the circumcision 
45 c 2 

Things Seen in Egypt 

«f the small boys of the family. In such a case 
one or more little boys will be seen gaily attired 
in an open carriage in the procession, while the 
bride's carriage is covered entirely with a hand- 
some cashmere shawl. On leaving a Christian 
bride's house rose-leaves are generally showered 
over her — a pretty custom, and one which it 
would be well if we adopted in place of our foolish 
and often dangerous rice-throwing. But the next 
ceremony, which takes place at the bridegroom's 
house, is one which is already falling into disuse 
among the Christians and some of the better- 
educated Moslems, and it is to be hoped will 
shortly become entirely obsolete. It is neither 
Christian nor Mohammedan, but comes straight 
down from the pagan religion of ancient Egypt. 
On arriving at the house, a calf or other cere- 
monially clean animal is slain before the bride on 
the threshold, and she has not only to see it done, 
but to pass in over the running blood. 

Little red and white flags are strung across the 
street or over the entrance to the courtyard where 
a wedding is being celebrated. If the household 
is rich and has sufficient space, large tents are 
erected for the reception of the male guests in 
front of the house, where they are entertained 
for at least two, and often for several nights. As 
in all Eastern " fantasias," the hosts do nothing 
themselves to entertain their guests : they leave it 
all to paid musicians and dancers. During the 
wedding ceremonies of both Copts and Moslems 


Home Life 

there is one night among those dedicated to 
festivity on which the Egyptian keeps open house 
in the fullest sense of the word. No one must be 
refused hospitality. The dragomen in Cairo have 
presumed on this custom to such an extent — 
telling the tourists that they can get them invita- 
tions to a native wedding, and then taking them 
in on this night uninvited — that very just and 
serious offence has been giv^en, particularly as the 
manners of these intruders from the different 
hotels and boarding-houses generally leave much 
to be desired. 

At state weddings the guests are assembled in 
the largest reception-room, and then the bride in 
full dress makes a sort of progress through the 
assembly, largesse being scattered among them 
as she passes. Tiny gold coins are specially 
minted for this purpose, so light that they 
resemble a shower of golden petals. The guests 
are not supposed to scramble for these, but may 
catch as many as they can ; and I have heard that 
dresses for a state wedding used to be specially 
made so as to carry away as many as possible 
of these gold coins in folds and quillings, without 
necessity for any appearance of eagerness or grasp- 
ing on the part of the wearer. 

xMohammedans, as we all know, are permitted 
by their religion to have four wives at once; but 
as in this case each wife can claim her own 
establishment, attendants, and conjugal rights, 
they find it cheaper and less trouble to divorce 

Things Seen in Egypt 

their last wife when they are inclined for a new 
one, and claim credit for having only one wife 
■when their religion allows them more. In any 
case, the principal wife (generally the first, if the 
mother of the first-born son) is not often divorced ; 
she retains her rank and place, whoever else may 
go and come. Every Mohammedan may divorce 
his wife whenever he pleases and without any 
reason given. He has to give her one-third of 
the dowrj' he received with her, but that is 
generally a small sum, and the fate of these dis- 
carded wives is often very sad. But public opinion 
has had a certain influence upon the Egyptian 
Moslems of late years. I believe that it is now 
considered rather bad form to divorce your wife, 
unless you can give some better reason than 
mere caprice, among the educated Mohammedans. 
They consider it only just that they should take a 
second wife when the first has no son, or grows 
old, or when their profession obliges them to 
make frequent journeys between two towns, and 
they need a home in each. But they do not 
divorce and remarry as often as they used, since 
they have become more sensitive to the pressure 
of European opinion on this head. 

Among the Copts very early marriages are 
discouraged. Some time ago, as among the 
Moslems still, fifteen was considered quite a 
possible age, and twelve for the girls. Sow a 
man must be twenty and a girl sixteen before the 
Patriarch, or Bishop, will grant the licence, with- 

Home Life 

out which no priest can celebrate a marriage. In 
1895 the Patriarch issued an encyclical letter to 
all his clergy, reminding them that, in accordance 
with the Canons of the Church, young people 
intending to marry should not only see, but mingle 
with, each other, so as to know one another well 
beforehand, and calling upon the priests to ascer- 
tain whether there was mutual knowledge and 
consent to the marriage on the part of both man 
and woman before the ceremony was performed. 

Divorce is very rare among the Copts, and is 
only granted for adultery. The innocent party 
may marry again with the permission of his or her 
Bishop or the Patriarch, but the religious service 
is slightly different, and the ceremony of crowning 
is omitted, as it is also for a widow or widower. 

The ceremonial observed at funerals is much 
the same for all Egyptians, whether Christian 
or Moslem. To note the differences first : The 
Christians invariably bury in coffins ; in the old 
days they were often of stone, but now are always 
of wood. The Mohammedans only use a shroud, 
or, rather, several shrouds. Since the Occupation 
a case arose in which the Moslems tried to seize a 
certain piece of ground belonging to a Coptic 
community. It had once been used as a burial- 
ground, and the case was decided in favour of the 
Copts, because sundry excavations proved that all 
the dead had been buried in coffins. The burial 
of a corpse must take place within twenty-four 


Things Seen in Egypt 

When the body is being carried to the grave, in 
the case of a Mohammedan, the usual confession 
of faith is chanted by the hired singers all the 
way. In the case of a Christian, of course, hymns 
and Christian chants are sung. 

The Cojits are buried in the best of the garments 
which they have worn in life, and some few jewels 
are usually buried with them even now, though 
not to anything like the extent to which this was 
done in the days of the Pharaohs. Over all the 
shroud is wrapped, which is often embroidered in 
gold and silver. If the dead man had been on 
pilgrimage, the garments that he wore after bath- 
ing in the Jordan are preserved to be worn in the 
grave ; if he was not a pilgrim, he weai's over his 
ordinary garments the robe which he put on in 
life for receiving the Holy Communion. During 
this ceremony praj'ers are offered for the departed 
soul, and incense is burnt in the priest's censers. 
When all is finished and the body laid in the 
coffin, a sei'vice is held over it, which differs in 
accord 1 nee with the past life of the deceased. 
Among the Copts this is the only survival of the 
ancient Egyptian ceremony of testifying for the 
dead (see Chapter V., p. 13.9), which the Moslems 
still observe, but which the Christians have given 
up. For, as one of them wrote to me in answer 
to my inquiries : 

" We never summon anyone to witness in 
favour of the departed soul. We believe that it 
is no business of ours to interfere in the work of 

Home Life 

God, to intervene between Him and man. We 
believe that the Creator of the soul know^s of its 
well-doing or wickedness better than any creature 
can do, and judges it righteously without needing 
our testimony. But the Moslems believe that 
their witness will weigh in God's judgment of the 
dead, and will affect it in favour of the souls of 
their brethren in faith." 

The Moslems, in addition to the washing of the 
corpse, have every aperture of the body plugged 
with raw cotton by a fiki. Incense is also burnt 
during this process, and the Koran is read aloud 
by the other fokaha present. (" Fokaha " is the 
plural of "fiki," literally schoolmaster, but the 
literal translation would be somewhat misleading 
in this connection.) The corpse is then wrapped 
in six different shrouds, which must be of silk, 
linen, cotton, and avooI, of various patterns. 
These shrouds are taken off the body at the 
grave and folded on the floor of the tomb to 
form a kind of bed, on which the naked corpse 

Instead of the private service of commendatory 
prayer, the body of the Moslem, if all the rites 
are properly carried out, is taken to a mosque on 
the way to the cemetery. The bier is set upon 
the ground, and the attendants range themselves 
on either side. Then the Imam comes forward, 
and, standing at the head of the bier, recites five 
prayers in a low tone. At the end of each prayer 
he lifts up his voice, and proclaintis aloud : " God 

Things Seen in Egypt 

is the greatest of all beings." The final prayer 
may be roughly translated as follows : 

" O God, the deceased was Thy servant, and 
the son of Thy servant. His faith was professed 
in this confession. I believe that there is no 
God but God, and I believe that Mohammed is 
the prophet of God. O God, if he were a well- 
doer in this world, reward him according to his 
deeds ; if he were an evil-doer, turn thine eyes 
away from his ill -deeds. Forgive his sins, pardon 
him for ever, have mercy upon him, purify his 
soul in the Divine light, make it clean as a white 
garment washed of all stain. Let his path to 
Paradise be smooth and safe and broad. Let him 
be received with welcome by the hosts of heaven." 

After this the Imam prostrates himself in solemn 
silence for a few moments. Then he lifts himself 
up and looks round about him on the attendants, 
whom he addresses thus : 

" Mohammedans, you are assembled here to 
bear testimony either for or against this departed 
soul. Say now what you know of his (or her) 
vices or virtues, as God hears you and will approve 
of what you may say." 

The attendants all shout in one breath : " He 
was the greatest good-doer in the world." (They 
never give any other testimony.) 

Then the procession is reformed, and the body 
is borne shoulder high to the grave. When they 
reach the place of burial, they chant as follows : 

" Peace be upon you, O dwellers in the valley 

Home Life 

of the dead. Death has brought one more into 
your abiding-place. Here is a new-comer who 
shall live amongst you for ever. O grave, look 
not so grim ; brighten thy face with a smile ; 
receive this mute clay in a kind embrace. O 
departed soul, fear not, neither despair. Angels 
are sent to guide thee on thy path ; the Prophet 
awaits thee at the gate of Paradise. Your faith 
in Islam will save you from any condemnation or 
trial. O Day of Judgment, this soul professed 
the Mohammedan religion ; be merciful to him ; 
try him not too hardly." 

The end of the recitation is drowned in a burst 
of lamentation — the shrill, prolonged outcries of 
Eastern mourning. The tomb is then opened, 
the corpse is taken from the bier, stripped of its 
shrouds, and laid in the grave, which is then 
filled in with stones if possible. Then the Imam 
comes forward to provide the soul with its final 
instructions for the dim and dreary shore which 
it must pass. He says: "When the two angels 
(see Chapter V., p. 131) come to thee and ask 
thee, ' Whom dost thou Avorship .'' What is thy 
religion.'' Who is thy prophet?' say thou, 'I 
worship God, profess Islam, and my prophet is 
Mohammed.' " Then the two angels take the 
soul under their protection. 

Both Copts and Moslems are alike in the 
frenzied demonstrations of grief which they 
encourage and indulge in on the occasion of a 
death. The women dye their hands and faces 


Things Seen in Egypt 

with indigo, they rend their garments, and let 
their hair stream loose and dishevelled. Hired 
mourners add to the clamour the beat of their 
tom-toms and the long shi-ill cries of wailing for 
the dead. Arrangements for the burial must be 
made at once, and, if the famih' is wealthy and 
important, the funeral procession is as follows : 

First of all come the live oxen, or other animals 
which it is intended to sacrifice at the grave for 
the benefit of the departed soul, or, as the 
Christians would say, to be given to the poor. 
Then come camels, loaded with boxes full of bread 
for distribution. Next come the fokaha, or, in 
the Cliristian procession, the priest, preceded by 
the sexton carrying a large silver cross,* and 
choir-boys carrying banners. Boys are hired in 
the Moslem procession also, though they have no 
longer any place in religious services, as among 
the Christians. Then come the censer-bearers, 
walking in line on either side of the bier, and 
sending up clouds of incense. These should be 
robed in white, and sprinkle perfumes also on 
the procession. Before the bier come the male 
relatives and friends of the deceased ; after the 
bier come the wailing women and all the female 
mourners. Their cries mingle with the chants 
and hymns of the men in front. The procession, if 
Moslem, halts at the mosque for the service before 

* It is only during the last tliirty years that the Copts 
have ventured to resume the practice of carrying processional 
crosses at funerals. 


Home Lite 

described ; and if Christian, the body is sometimes 
taken to a church for the first part of the funeral 
service, which has special reference to the hfe of 
the deceased, instead of holding it in the house. 

At the grave, instead of the address to the 
dead chanted by the Moslems, the Christians read 
passages from the Gospel, offer prayers both for 
the dead and for the living, and sing hymns, of 
which a specimen verse may be given : 

" Come, then, pure hands, and bear the dead 
Who sleeps, or wears the mask of sleep — 
Yea, come, who loved him, come to weep 
And hear the ritual of the dead." 

But Isis and Nephthys (called Munkar and 
Nekir by the Moslems) have long been forgotten 
by the Christians. They leave their dead to the 
mercy and comprehension of God. 

Both Copts and Moslems are subject, of course, 
to the rule requiring burial within twenty-four 
hours. But though they can no longer keep their 
dead above ground, the Copts still keep up the 
tradition of the forty days after death, during 
which, in the days of old, the body was being 
embalmed, and was therefore unburied (see 
Gen. 1. 2, 3). They believe that the spirit of 
the dead man or woman cannot enter Paradise 
until the forty days are fulfilled. After the forty 
days, during which they mourn and pray for the 
departed, the priest is called upon to perform 
the rites which will enable him to leave the 

Things Seen in Egypt 

neighbourhood of earth and enter Paradise (see 
Chapter V., p. 12S). 

The priest brings holy water, and sprinkles it in 
every room of the house in which the man died — 
on his bed, his clothes, and on the mourners. 
Then he offers up the prayer of release, in which 
he bids the departed soul a last farewell, and 
dismisses him in peace to his celestial abode. 

From the earliest times of Christianity the 
custom was continued of visiting the tombs on 
certain days, as in the religion of ancient Egypt, 
and those Egyptians who adopted the faith of 
Islam still continued the same practice. Copt 
and Mohammedan alike visit their dead in the 
cemeteries on the eve of their respective festivals. 
Food is taken and eaten at the tombs of their 
relations, though probably hardly any of them 
know that this is a survival from the old pagan 
religion of Egypt. As the Mohammedans have 
adopted the lunar calendar of their Arab masters 
for all religious purposes, it follows that their 
days for these visits are no longer the same as 
those of the Copts. But there is one day in the 
year on which it is proper for all Egyptians to 
visit their dead which has no reference to any 
Christian or Moslem festival, and is probably the 
survival of some ancient Egyptian custom. For 
the Moslems it is a particular day in Regeb, for 
the Christiajis a particular day in Babeh. The 
Christian observance is probably the nearest to 
the original time, as they, like their pagan fore- 


A street in a village of some size. Worthy of notice is the native 
architecture, also the dog, seldom missing from such a scene, always a 
scavenger and often fierce. 

Home Life 

fathers, go by the solar calendar ; whereas, Regeb 
being a lunar month, there is no saying at what 
time of year the commemoration of the dead may 
fall. Babeh is the second month in the Egyptian 
year, and corresponds now with parts of October 
and November. But before we altered our 
calendar it corresponded with the last days of 
September and the month of October. The 
E<ryptians, whether Moslem or Christian, can 
give no reason now for going on this particular 
day in the year to the tombs, only that it has 
always been so ; nor do I know with what parti- 
cular day or festival in the religion of ancient 
Egypt it should be identified. 

Among the wealthier and better- educated 
Mohammedans in Egypt, the seclusion of the 
women is not insisted upon except in Egypt. You 
may see a bevy of women arrive at the Cairo 
railway - station shrouded up to the eyes, and 
marshalled like prisoners to their carriage by the 
unfortunate nondescript whose mutilation the 
system of Moslem " home " life renders necessary. 
The women must not look at anyone on the 
platform, far less speak to them ; they are locked 
into their carriage, and conducted from the 
carriage to the steamer in the same way. The 
next morning the same women appear at the 
public meal in the saloon, unveiled, bareheaded, 
clad in the latest Parisian travelling fashion, and 
supplied with the latest thing in steamer-chairs 
and French novels. They will pose as Europeans 

Things Seen in Egypt 

the whole time they are away, and act with the 
same freedom, but when the return steamer lands 
them once more in Egypt, the same gaolers, the 
same shrouds, will be waiting for them, and they 
will arrive in Cairo as they went away. 

If you are visiting a lady in a harem with her 
friends around her, and her husband unexpectedly 
comes in (generally he sends notice beforehand), 
you may see the native visitors go down on their 
knees on the floor, and pull their skirts over their 
heads, lest the intrusive husband of the lady they 
are visiting should catch a glimpse of their faces. 
Indeed, a native woman of the poorest class, 
wearing little else but one garment, and meeting 
a European, has been known to draw her garment 
right over her head, serenely conscious that she 
has done the correct thing, and perfectly careless 
of the fact that the greater part of her body was 
thus exposed. 

Now that the purchase of slaves has become 
both difficult and dangerous under the British 
occupation, servants have to be engaged and paid. 
Almost all households — Copts, Moslems and Euro- 
peans — employ some Berber servants ; many 
houses are served entirely by Berberin. These 
Berberin come from Nubia, a large proportion 
from the neighbourhood of Korosko, and they 
should, in fact, properly be called Nubians. But 
it is only another instance of the rule that nothing 
in Egypt is ever what it is called, and " Nubian " 
has so long been used for " Negro" that to apply 

Home Life 

it to a Berber would be to give a wrong impres- 

"Berberin" is simply the old Greek "barbarian," 
which they applied to all the races outside their 
civilization. This accounts for the fact that 
perfectly different races lying round the Egypt 
of the Greek period are called Berbers by 
European writers. In Egyptian Arabic they are 
still called Berberin in the plural. 

They are remarkable for the fact that of their 
own accord they have now for more than a 
century made a practice of leaving their own 
country to serve for a term of years among 
strangers. They save every penny, and at the 
end of five years or so they invest their money 
in goods for trading, and go back to their own 
country. Here they live for a year or more on 
the proceeds, and then, leaving behind them as 
a rule some small investment in land or houses, 
return for a fresh term of years. Though hardly 
any of them can wi-ite or read, they maintain a 
regular correspondence with their friends and 
relations ; they have a sheikh or head of their 
own in Cairo and other large towns, to whom 
alone they consider themselves responsible, and 
they look down on the Egyptians as a race of 
idlers and stay-at-homes. It is only fair to add 
that this contempt is reciprocated, and that ' Ya 
Berber ' is as common a term of insult as ' Ya 
fellah.' They command good wages, and most 
of them deserve them. When a Berber boy is 

65 D 

Things Seen in Egypt 

about twelve or fourteen he is sent clown, in 
charge of one of the race who happens to be 
going, to his father in Cairo. He generally 
remains in his father's charge for a few months, 
picking up Arabic, and is then placed in a good 
European household to learn his trade. They 
have a natural gift for cooking, and in a few 
months will learn enough to go as general servant, 
unless they have a sufficiently good connection 
to aim at the higher branches of service When 
a European pays his cook the wages of a marmi- 
ton, it is often the case that the marmiton is an 
ap]>rentice who has already paid a small premium 
to the cook to learn of him. The wages probably 
go as an extra perquisite to the cook, but there 
is no cheating intended. The apprentice does 
not consider that he is wronged so long as he 
is well taught. But if you have been sufficiently 
long in the country to know their ways, and 
cannot afford to pay a marmiton, you merely tell 
your cook so, and if he thinks you are poor and 
not mean, he will accept the situation contentedly, 
and you will probably find that he has his 
marmiton all the same. But if you do not pay 
for the marmiton, it is etiquette that you should 
ignore his existence. 

These Berberin were all Christians till the 
destruction of their kingdoms by the Mameluke 
Sultans of Egypt towards the end of the four- 
teenth century. After that they gradually became 
Mohammedan, but the faith of Islam sits lightly 


Home Life 

upon most of them. They are Mohammedans 
because their fathers were, but sunchy Christian 
practices linger among them in out-of-the-way 
places, and they do not trouble even to change 
the names they have always borne except, oddly 
enough, when they take service in a European 
family. If you are curious to inquire, you may 
find that your Mohammed or Abdul is known in 
his own country as Junius or Thomas, or some 
extraordinary name such as Gorgoda or Wuritana. 
I have heard a Berber call " Basil " after his 
fellow in the street, but the latter's mistress 
probably knew him as Ahmed or Ali. They 
almost always choose to be known by one of 
those four names — Mohammed, Abdul, Ahmed, 
or Ali — when they go to service. They find their 
Mohammedan religion chiefly useful, I think, 
because it allows them to marry two wives. They 
are married as a matter of course in their own 
country', either before they first go down, or, if 
they are too young then, when they first return 
to their country. But they do not bring their 
wives down to Egypt with them, and as soon as 
they can afford it they marry another in Egypt, 
and migrate from one home to another. After 
some years have passed they often get tired of 
supporting the wife in Nubia, and for a Moham- 
medan, of course, divorce is easy. They can 
always many another when they go back if they 
wish to do so, but meanwhile the wife of their 
youth too often receives her dismissal. They are 
69 D 2 

Things Seen in Egypt 

very fond, however, of their children. Their 
language is not in the least like Arabic — I have 
not been able to ascertain whether it has any 
resemblance to Coptic — and they are very quick 
at picking up European languages. They have 
a good deal of self-respect, and if a European 
should forget himself so far as to strike his 
Berber servant, he may not outwardly show any 
sign of anger, but a mark is henceforth set 
against the man's house, and no good Berber will 
serve him afterwards. He will only be able to 
get those who are in disgrace among their own 
people because they have taken to drink or 
hashish, or some other bad habit. A good Berber 
can be trusted, and will turn his hand to anything 
that may be recjuired in the house. They are 
not, however, so well-mannered as the Egyptians. 

Outdoor servants are generally Egyptian ; the 
gardener is so invariably. Most of the Pashas 
still keep a large household, but where in the 
days before the Occupation there would be about 
a hundred hangers-on, there are now ten. Since 
slaves are no longer available, and extortion can 
no more be openly practised in the provinces, 
" it is very good for the fellahin, but very bad 
for the Bashawat," as the ex-servant of a Pasha 
once said to me. 

Until recently hardly any of the Moslem 
Egyptians could read or write, except those belong- 
ing to the trading and official classes and the 
semi-Europeanized families. The Copts, on the 

Home Life 

other hand, have always had a keen desire for 
education, and will permit their children to be 
enrolled as members of any Christian sect or 
church which will give them the coveted boon, 
though most of them return afterwards to the 
church of their fathers. Of late years they have 
established many good schools of their own, and. 
large numbers of them attend the Government 
schools, where proper provision has at last been 
made for them. But it took the English 
authorities nearly a quarter of a century to 
realize that the Copts were not only Christians, 
but Egyptians, and had equal rights in the 
country with their Moslem brothers. 



ONE of the first things which strikes a new- 
comer both in the purely native quarters of 
the town and in the country villages is the 
ruinous aj)pearance of many of the houses. This 
is sometimes said to be due to the fact that under 
Turkish government it is not safe for anyone to 
appear prosperous, and there is a great deal of 
truth in the remark ; but in Egypt there is another 
reason as well. There is a curious superstition, 
common to both Moslem and Christian Egjptians, 
which forbids the repair of a house in which the of the family has died. We may infer that 
at most periods of Egyptian history this super- 
stition prevailed, for, except in the case of the 
" heretic " King, no remains have ever been found 
of a great palace or dwelling-house in Egypt, 
unless it be in the rare and doubtful cases when 
the royal palace has formed part of a temple. 
This seems to have been the case with Queen Til, 
or Taia, the ruins of whose palace may still be 
seen at Thebes. But she was the mother of 


Provincial Life in Egypt 

the heretic King,* and was supposed by many 
Egyptologists to be responsible for his short-lived 
attempt to substitute the Sun God for the great 
Ammon of Thebes. It may be presumed, there- 
fore, that the Egyptian superstition, whatever it 
may have been, which made it almost impossible 
to build palaces or houses that would last, would 
not weigh heavily on her or on her son. However 
that may be, her palace, and the palace built later 
by her son at Tell el Marna, are the only ancient 
Egyptian dwelling-houses of which any ruins exist 
in Egypt. Not only the huts of the poorer people, 
but the royal palaces and houses of the nobility, 
were built in perishable materials ; and an ancient 
Egyptian would always have been ready to say 
with the Apostle, " Here we have no continuing 
city." It is said that, even at the present day in 
the provinces, when the family is neither poor 
enough for the usual mud shanty, which may be 
pulled down and rebuilt in a few days, nor rich 
enough to possess two houses, tlie head of the 
house is sometimes carried outside into the field 
to die in order that the house may be safe. As 
far as I can gather, the ideally correct proceeding 
is that, after the death, every movable article of 
furniture should be carried away, and the house 

* AmenSthes, or Amenhotep, who took the name of 
Koniatonu, or Khiienaten. All these names vary in spelling 
according to the particular Egyptologist who writes about 
them. He was son to Amenhotep III., of the eighteenth 


Things Seen in Egypt 

itself left empty to its fate. But probably this 
does not often happen, even in the case of the 
easily replaced mud huts. As a rule, the women 
and descendants remain, but no more is done to 
the house, and it gradually becomes too bad to 
live in. It may be remembered that the Khedive 
Tewfik died unexpectedly at Helouan in a new 
palace which he had just built for himself. 
Directly the body had been carried away the 
furniture and everything movable was torn out 
of the house and piled up in the desert. The 
palace was left standing emj)ty for some time, and 
when it was subsequently sold to Europeans to 
be used as an hotel instead of going to ruin, I 
have heard that the Egyptians viewed this depar- 
ture from precedent with the gravest disapproval. 
The origin of this strange custom is lost in the 
mists of antiquity, and no doubt, under the 
present conditions of life in Egypt, it will fall 
into disuse. 

The chief man in an Egyptian village is the 
Omdeh He combines the functions discharged 
in England by the Mayor of a country town, the 
squire of the village, and the Justice of the Peace. 
He is generally illiterate even now, but he is 
usually a strong man, as he had need to be. He 
is the link and means of communication between 
the village and the Government ; and some years 
ago, when the opportunities for illicit gains were 
great, and the small privileges attached to the 
position were valued because they were new and 

Provincial Life in Egypt 

rare, the appointment was much sought after. 
The whole village was split into rival factions, 
each anxious to secure their own candidate. Yet 
the privileges attached to the post are not large — 
only the exemption of five acres of land from 
taxation, and the exemption of himself and his 
sons from military service. On the other hand, 
he is responsible for the execution of all Govern- 
ment orders and regulations ; he is at the beck 
and call of the inspectors of every Department, 
and he is the object of every sort of intrigue. 
In one year alone, while 898 Omdehs were accused 
of committing various offences, no less than 530 
of tliese accusations were summarily dismissed as 
false or trivial. In only 96 cases was the accusa- 
tion properly substantiated. Of qualifications 
which can be set down in writing, the only one 
required is that the candidate for the post of 
Omdeh must own ten acres of land. Many of 
them are very wealthy, but are willing to serve 
for the sake of the social prestige attached to 
the office. There are over 3,400 of these officials 
in Egypt altogether. 

There is a good deal of happy communal life in 
the villages. All the peasant asks is to be left in 
peace to cultivate his ground, and not to have to 
pay his taxes twice over. An Egyptian peasant, 
far from all possible listeners, mentioned this to 
me a few years after the Occupation as an almost 
incredible piece of good luck which had befallen 
them in consequence of the coming of the English : 

Things Seen in Egypt 

" We know what we have to pay, and we do not 
have to pay it more than once. And if one comes 
and desires to beat us to make us pay again, we 
have only to send a telegram to the Englishman 
at Assiout " (this happened to be the Assiout 
district), " and he ivill not let them !" 

There is in most villages a village guest-house, 
which is placed at the disposal of a traveller who 
may not be known to anyone in the village. I 
have found it scrupulously clean, without furni- 
ture, of course, except a divan ; but then the 
Oriental traveller brings what he needs with him. 
Food is often brought to the guest-house, but no 
payment will be taken. Once off the beaten 
track, you are not only not asked for backsheesh, 
but I have found it difficult to get anyone to take 
payment for small services rendered. Perhaps, 
however, a traveller who could not speak Arabic 
would find a difference. The principal village 
institutions are the incubator and the pigeon-cot. 
The latter is in almost all villages, the incubator 
only in a proportion of them. The Egyptian 
hens, having had their eggs artificially hatched 
for them for some two or three thousand years, 
have now lost all desire to sit, and do not attempt 
it. The eggs are collected and brought to the 
incubator, where they are all tested before being 
accepted by the man in charge, who has after- 
wards to return to their owners a fixed proportion 
of chickens. The incubator is a low building, and 
has a dark, narrow passage down the middle, with 


--}- S' 

Photo by inil K. K, 


The cane is beinsj carried from a native boat lying near Elephantine 
Island, Assouan. In the disf.ance is a portion of Lord Kitchener's island, 
which is covered with trees. 

Provincial Life in Egypt 

the eggs reposing in earthen ovens on either side. 
In the passcige itself are kept and fed the " cata- 
keets," or the young chickens, which are killed 
for market when they are four or five weeks old, 
and have never seen the light of day. 

The village pigeon-cot is a much more pic- 
turesque object. It is like a little fortress, built 
of mud, of course, but with little rounded towers, 
rising above the village roofs. The villagers set 
great store by their pigeons, and nothing makes 
them so angry as any attempt on the part of a 
European to shoot them. No one person really has 
any right to give permission for pigeon-shooting, 
not even the Omdeh of the village, without the 
agreement of the rest of the village. Almost 
all the serious difficulties between the peasants 
and the British army have arisen in consequence of 
the latter's ignorance or disregard of this feeling, 
but of late yeai's the British authorities have 
recognized the danger, and forbidden pigeon- 
shooting in the army. Tourists are still apt to 
ofiend in this way. 

It is commonly supposed that they are valued 
chiefly for the guano they produce, besides the 
large quantities of young pigeons sold for food. 
But it is quite possible that there are still valuable 
carrier-pigeons among them. Pigeons have been 
used for carrying news from time immemorial in 
Egypt ; and though the way natives obtain their 
news in districts where no telegraphs run is kept 
a profound secret, there is no reason to suppose 

Things Seen in Egypt 

that pigeons are not still the means of communica- 
tion. Besides notices of their employment in 
serious history, there exists in a quaint Arab book 
professing to be history a story which is so charac- 
teristic and pretty that I give a rough translation, 
which, I should say, is not from the Arabic itself, 
but adapted from a Fi-ench version : 

" Once upon a time there was a Sultan in Egypt 
whose dominions reached far be3ond Damascus 
on the one hand, and to Kirwan on the other. 
He himself had never been out of Egypt, and 
knew nothing of any country except his own. 
Many of his slaves were much better educated 
than he was, and among them a Syrian girl from 
Damascus was a great favourite. 

" It chanced one day that their talk ran on the 
subject of fruit, and the slave girl declared that 
nothing in all Egypt could equal the cherries of 
Damascus. The Sultan was filled with a great 
desire to taste this wonderful fruit, but, according 
to his slave, it could not be brought to Egypt ; to 
enjoy it one must go to Damascus. The Sultan 
reflected that Damascus was an important city of 
his dominions which he had never visited. What 
could be more plausible than a royal progress of 
inspection from Cairo through Syria to that cele- 
brated town ? The more he thought of the idea 
the more he liked it, which was probably just 
what his slave desired. But even the Sultan did 
not quite like to tell his Wizier that he was going 
to make a State visit to Damascus to eat cherries. 

Provincial Life in Egypt 

So he expressed concern about the state of the 
northern provinces, and told the Wizier to make 
preparations for a state progress through Syria to 
Damascus to inquire into their affairs. 

''The Wizier was filled with alarm. He hap- 
pened to be aware that such an inquiry would be 
very far from agreeable or convenient either to 
the Governor of Damascus or any other Syrian 
Governor. From his experience of his master, he 
did not for a moment believe in his concern for 
the provinces, but he was very much puzzled to 
know what the Sultan really did want. He set 
his wits and his wife to work, however, and at 
length he discovered that the sole object of the 
costly and inconvenient expedition was that the 
Sultan might eat ripe cherries. There was no 
time to be lost, and the Wizier rose to the 

" On the morrow he caused a proclamation to 
be made commanding everyone in Cairo to bring 
his best pigeon at once and without fail to the 
court of the Wizier's house. No one dared to 
disobey the order, and all the next day crowds of 
men came, bringing each a pigeon in their robes. 
In the court of the Wizier were a great heap of 
aifas crates and a group of the swiftest riding 
camels that could be obtained all ready for a 
journey. As fast as the pigeons were received they 
were packed in the crates, and by nightfall all 
were full. Then in the quiet starlight the swift 
camels stole silently away into the desert, each bear- 

Things Seen in Egypt 

ing two crates full of pigeons to a destination which 
only the Wizier and the sheikh of the camels knew. 

" Weeks passed on^ and still the Wizier appeared 
to be immersed in all the costly preparations 
necessary for the Sultan's royal progress through 
distant lands, but fresh delays were ever forth- 
coming, and every morning at daybreak the 
Wizier looked anxiously towards the east from his 
housetop. At length one morning he beheld, as 
it were, a little cloud in the sky, and soon the air 
was filled with the fluttering wings of homing 
pigeons. All ciay long the crowd poured into the 
court, each one bringing his own bird for its 
burden to be detached and to claim the promised 
reward. For under each wing of all the weary 
birds was a ripe cherry from Damascus ! 

" All day the slaves piled high the ruddy fruit 
on round brass trays under the eye of the Wizier, 
and towards sunset a brilliant procession went uj> 
to the royal palace and laid the Wizier' s present 
of fresh cherries before the Sultan. His Majesty 
was delighted, and withdrew with the laden 
salvers into his harem, while the Wizier went 
home to await the course of events. At the end 
of two days the Sultan sent to say that he was not 
very well, and all the preparations for a journey 
must be stopped. He was not going to Damascus," 

Pariah dogs are still numerous in all the villages, 

though they have almost become extinct in Cairo 

and Alexandria, where for ^ome time they have 

been regularly poisoned at intervals by the 


> o 









J= J3 
































^ "bo 


Provincial Life in Egypt 

Government, They may be useful as scavengers, 
but they are almost an unmitigated nuisance in 
every other respect, and render hideous the 
otherwise brilliant and beautiful nights of Egypt 
in the neighbourhood of all human habitations. 
They have shared in the general prosperity of 
Egypt, and are no longer mangy, shrinking curs ; 
many of them are fine strong animals with good 
coats. In the neighbourhood of Erment there is 
quite a distinct and very handsome breed, almost 
black in colour, and perfectlj' unlike in form to 
the ordinary pariah. An Ermenti puppy is a 
charming animal, like a black baby bear ; but he 
Invariably grows up too savage to be a safe pet, as 
more than one Englishman has discovered. 

Cows are comparatively rare — successive out- 
breaks of cattle-plague destroyed the ancient 
breed of Egyptian cattle long ago. Buffaloes, of 
course, are common everywhere — huge ungainly 
creatures easily guided by a small Egyptian child, 
except when they take to the water. I have seen 
a little girl on the bank of the river plaintively 
entreating her black charges to return to dry 
ground, like a hen calling to her ducklings ; and I 
once saw a young buffalo swim right across a full 
Nile from Cairo to Gezireh, where the current is 
very strong. 

Camels are never seen on the monuments, and 

some scholars have inferred from this that they 

were not known in Egypt till comparatively late. 

It seems more probable, however, that the 


Things Seen in Egypt 

Egyptians, like most Eastern nations, divided 
animals into clean and unclean, and that only the 
ceremonially " clean " were represented on the 
temple walls, or made mention of»in the service of 
the gods. 

It is difficult to realize how very modern are the 
two things which are now so closely associated with 
Eastern life — coffee and tobacco. The last, indeed, 
is not allowed by one sect of Mohammedans, 
because they say that if Mohammed had known of 
it he would have forbidden it. But coffee is 
everywhere, though it was unknown in Egypt till 
it was introduced by a travelling merchant in the 
Middle Ages. Since the English occupied Egypt 
tea has grown in favour, particularly among the 
Berberin servants, but cofiee is still the first 
offering of hospitality. 

Everywhere in the provinces the stranger will 
receive a courteous invitation to rest and drink 
coffee from someone in the village which he 
passes. In very poor houses they drink the coffee 
sugarless themselves, but if the traveller accepts 
the invitation and seats himself on the clay divan 
outside the hut to await the cofl'ee, he will perceive 
a small boy start off on receipt of a whispered 
order, and return breathless with a handful of 
white loaf-sugar, which he presses silently into the 
hand of the host. In the country there is still a 
good deal of the ancient Egyptian freedom 
accorded to women even among the Moslems. 
The peasants are almost always well-mannered and 

Provincial Life in Egypt 

make admirable listeners, but long centuries of 
oppression have taught them to maintain a pro- 
found reserve concerning their own opinions and 
affairs, unless they are alone with their own people, 
or with someone whom years of experience have 
taught them that they may trust. 

Very few even of the Moslems, much less the 
Christians, will venture to say anything that might 
seem like praise of the English rule, to which they 
know perfectly well that they owe all their 
present prosperity. They do not know when it 
may come to an end, and they may be left to 
suffer for ill-guarded expressions of satisfaction 
with foreign interference. It may be matter of 
common knowledge that a high oriental official 
extorts bribes regularly from everyone beneath 
hiin in the department ; but it will be found quite 
impossible to persuade any of the victims to go 
and give evidence against him in a court of justice. 
The young fellows in the Government schools are 
no doubt sincere in their clamour for self- 
government, and really believe that they could 
bring about an ideal state of things ; the father of 
a family hastens to express his fervent acquiescence 
in the new ideas, and secretly prays Allah to avert 
such a calamity. They have a strong feeling that 
they can keep on the right side of Providence, so 
to speak, by abusing loudly that for which they 
are most thankful ; as a lad will spit on a coin, 
which he is delighted to receive, "for luck." 1 
was once present at one of those sad burials of an 
91 E 

Things Seen in Egypt 

Englishman who had " gone under," and who had 
died penniless and unknown in Cairo, to be buried 
by the Consulate (i.e., as a pauper). There was no 
one but the clergyman and myself at the funeral, 
and the strength of the hired men was found 
insufficient to lower the coffin into the gi*ave. At 
length my driver — of an ordinary street carriage — 
was called in from outside the cemetery and asked 
to help. He came readily enough, but as he 
lowered the coffin he uttered a curse upon the 
soul of the departed. No one took any notice ; it 
was quite obvious that he had no feeling of 
personal malice or ill will, and if he had known 
that we understood, he would probably have 
taken care to make his remark inaudible. He 
was merely protecting himself by the utterance of 
a formula from the ill-luck which might otherwise 
befall him in consequence of his help given to a 
dead Christian. 

They are quite ready to laugh at and critici/.e 
their rulers, both Moslem and English, but in the 
former case they are careful to do so under the 
form of a puppet show, or story with fictitious 
names. The habit of giving nicknames to those 
set over them has been characteristic of the 
Egyptians certainly since Diocletian was known 
as the Dragon, and probably for centuries before 
that. They are also very fond of story-telling 
pure and simple, and will sit long in the moonlight 
listening with hearty appreciation to the village 


O 3 



Provincial Life in Egypt 

Farming operations are carried on almost all the 
year round, except for a few weeks in the districts 
where basin irrigation is still the rule. There is 
always some crop to be attended to, either in or 
out of the ground. Quite the most important of 
these are the date-palms, now again increasing in 
number since we decreed the repeal of the 
iniquitous laws which taxed them almost out of 
existence under Turkish rule. Every part of a 
palm-tree is useful : the trunk makes rafters for 
the houses; the ribs of the leaves, often 15 to 
20 feet long, make the affass crates used for 
almost every purpose by the natives ; the leaflets 
make baskets, and the fruit supplies food. The 
palm-trees are male and female, and need human 
agency for their fertilization. 

There is a quaint story in Herodotus which he 

gives as illustrating the credulity and foolishness 

of the Egyptians. At a certain time of the year, 

he says, the inhabitants of each district assemble 

jand cut certain branches from selected palms. 

1 These they cany in procession, chanting hymns 

jand invocations, and fix them in other palm-trees, 

and they declare, says Herodotus scornfully, that 

if this were not done the palms would not bear 

fruit ! In which, we need hardly say, they were 

Iperfectly right. The Egyptian dates are not of 

very good quality, but they are beautiful to look 

tat in the time of harvest, with their great bunches 

of red or yellow fruit. It also makes a difference 

Ito them which way they are planted, and in trans- 

95 E 2 

Things Seen in Egypt 

planting young trees great care has to be taken. 
An Englishman, imported direct from Kew, 
found fault with his Egyptian labourers for the 
time they took over transplanting some palms, 
and in superintending, desired the young tree to 
be set as he thought the foliage looked best. The 
natives objected, and said that each tree must be 
set with one particular side of the trunk to the 
south, or they would never thrive. The English- 
man wanted to know the reason, but they could 
not tell him, though they themselves seemed to 
know by instinct which way each tree must go. 
The Englishman — who told me this story himself 
— inquired into the matter, and found that they 
were perfectly right : the " heart " of the tree was 
not in the middle of the trunk, but always to 
one side. 

In the winter the palm groves do not look at 
all at their best. The leaves have been cut for 
atfass-making, and the result is that till the young 
leaves have grown again they look like nothing so 
much as a set of feather dusters that have lost 
nearly all their feathers. 

Sugar-cane is grown largely, and there are a 
certain number of sugar factories at work, but 
they are not very profitable. When it is ripe, 
every little waysiile stall has its bundle of rods 
for sale. The natives eat great quantities of it, 
crushing the cane in their strong white teeth and 
sucking the raw juice. 

Cotton was grown and woven in Egypt from 

Stereo Copyright, Ciida-u-j.d c- i'. London C~ Xow Yor/:. 


Provincial Life in Egypt 

the earliest times, but, like many other things, it 
disappeared so entirely in the general wreck of 
the country that it was supposed to be a new 
idea when it was reintroduced early in the 
present century. Now it covers a great part of 
the country, so much so that, with his usual lack 
of foresight, the prosperous Egyj^tian peasant 
suffered from actual scarcity of food in some 
districts a few years ago. He had planted all 
possible land with cotton, and made no provision 
for obtaining corn from anywhere else, and in 
consequence corn went up to such a price that it 
was extremely difficult for the poorer people to 
obtain any at all. Some of the Egyptian cotton 
is almost like silk ; in one district it is made into 
" silk " and sold as such. It is a very pretty 
crop — low green bushes, something like raspberry- 
canes, with large yellow flowers. At certain 
times in the year you see almost every railway- 
station in Egy^it heaped with the enormous bales, 
waiting to be exported. At another time their 
place is taken by sacks of onions, which are also 
exported in large quantities. The Egyptian 
knows much more than is commonly supposed 
about agriculture, and on the rare occasions when 
he offers advice, it is not wise for the European to 
disregard it. The prettiest crop is undoubtedly 
the clover, or berseem. It takes the place of 
grass meadows in other countries, and all the 
animals are fed on it as long as it can be had. 
The sheep and cattle are brought into the clover- 

Things Seen in Egypt 

field, and tethered in a line to eat their portion 
for the day, while the children Avho are left to 
look after them make nests for themselves among 
the clover, like brightly-coloured birds. When 
the whole field has been eaten down, it is 
generally quite ready for them to go back and 
begin again. 

Every cabman drives about with his horse's 
daily allowance of berseem under his feet, and 
whenever he has to wait he jumps down and 
proceeds to feed his horses by hand. A private 
carriage, unless the owner is in a high position, 
generally uses one horse ; a street carriage has 
always a pair. But horses are not common outside 
the larsje towns. The country gentleman gener- 
ally rides an ass or a mule, the carrier in the 
desert a camel ; while oxen and buffaloes are 
generally used for agricultural purposes, though 
the camel carries loads everywhere, and may even 
be seen yoked to a native plough. 

Fishing is a very considerable native industry 
on the large lakes of Egypt, particularly on Lake 
Menzaleh, where about a thousand boats are 
employed in the fisheries. These fisheries were 
farmed out under the old system of Turkish rule, 
and so many other matters pressed for immediate 
attention that it was not until 1902 that the 
grievances of the native fisherman were redressed 
and the old evil system finally abolished. Now 
anyone can take out a licence for his boat, and if 
he is too poor to possess a boat, he is permitted 


Lottdo)i &* New W 

Notice the way the baby is carried. 

Provincial Life in Egypt 

to catch fish from the shore with a net without 
paying any tax. He is also permitted to sell his 
fish to anyone and at any place he pleases. 
Within three years of these reforms being carried 
out the average earnings of the fisherman in a 
month had quadrupled, and seventy new boats 
had been launched on one lake alone. But a 
curious result followed : the price of fish almost 
doubled in the great towns of Egypt. The 
fishermen, being now at liberty to sell their fish 
when and where they please, refuse to sell at all 
except at a fair price. Fish left on their hands 
they either send away themselves to some market 
where they know it will command a good price, 
or salt it down. In the same way, when the 
octroi duties were abolished in Cairo and Alex- 
andria, we all hoped that the price of food would 
go down. To our surprise, it rose considerably 
and directly. The peasant who brought in his 
poultry and food-stuffs under the old regime could 
not afford to take them back and pay again the 
next day on the same goods, or as often as he 
brought them into town, so he sold them the 
first day for what he could get. But under the 
present regime, if he does not obtain what he 
thinks a fair price for his turkeys and other live 
produce, he just marches them back again, and 
brings them some other day when there is more 
demand. Even green -stuffs and fruit can some- 
times be kept a day ; in any case, he is sure of 
obtaining now a fair reward for his labour. It is 

Things Seen in Egypt 

seldom that the best-intentioned reforms bring 
such an immediate and substantial increase of 
property to the people whom it is proposed to 

Life on these lakes is still very much what it 
was in the days of the Pharaohs, as represented 
on the walls of the tomb chambers. Fowling is 
practised still, though shooting will probably take 
its place in time. The lakes are something like 
the Norfolk Broads on a very large scale. Lake 
Menzaleh will probably become every year more 
and more a resort for European sportsmen who 
can speak Arabic. A beautiful account of the 
northern lakes appeared in the Cornhill a few 
years ago, written by Mr. Hogarth, if I remember 
rightly. The lake in the Fayoum, which the tourists 
know best, is not so good either for sport or fishing. 

A good deal of pottery is made in the southern 
provinces, and floated down the. river for sale and 
export. The principal articles are zeyrs and 
goollas, the large jars used for holding water, and 
the smaller ones for drinking It is wonderful 
to watch the natives loading a cargo-boat with 
these fragile porous jars, They are thrown from 
hand to hand as quickly as possible, and caught 

Towards sunset the flocks and herds stream 
back to their village in charge of the herdsmen, 
often a small child or an old man, who walks 
along spinning wool on a primitive arrangement. 
The women have, many of them, been at work all 

Provincial Life in Egypt 

day, but they have still their water to fetch from 
the river or the nearest canal. A group of these 
slight, erect figures in their trailing garments, each 
with an enormous jar poised upon her head, making 
their way to the water through the sunset glow, is 
one of the most picture'<que sights in Egypt. 

Among the picturesque objects to be seen in 
the provinces are the domed white tombs outside 
the villages or by the roadside. The earliest of 
these cover the bones of long-forgotten Christians, 
but for some centuries it has been customary to 
bury Mohammedan "saints " in this way. In the 
case of a religious beggar — one who has chosen 
a certain spot on which he sits all day in rags 
chanting appeals to Allah, and to the public in 
His name — it has been customary to bury him 
on the same spot which he hallowed by his 
presence in life. When this happened to be 
among the palms, just at the entrance to a village, 
the result was a picturesque object which harmed 
no one ; but as the towns spread and grew, 
these tombs which, once built, were of course 
inviolable, became a very great inconvenience and 
obstruction to traffic. Those absolutely in Cairo 
streets have been, under British rule, restored 
and beautified till they are at least sightly and 
sanitary, if unsuited to the middle of a crowded 
street. But while thus respecting accomplished 
facts and acquired rights, orders were given that 
no more of these burials were to be permitted in 
the public roads. 


Things Seen in Egypt 

There was a certain fakir who had always sat in 
the entrance of one of the gates of Alexandria, 
through which the traffic yearly became greater. 
He was a very holy man, and no one ventured to 
interfere with hivn as he sat chanting his appeals 
and invocations all day. But he was very old, and 
the English head of the police was on the watch. 
One day it was reported to him that the fakir 
was dead, and that they were making preparations 
to inter him on the spot. Colonel H. sent down 
a courteous intimation that it could not be per- 
mitted. The disciples of the fakir, with humblest 
salaams, represented that they were powerless in 
the matter ; th;it the dead body of the holy one 
refused to allow itself to be carried from the 
spot ; and that even if it were possible for them to. 
risk the anger of the dead, they were powerless 
to remove the body. 

Colonel H. sent back word that he entirely 
sympathized, and quite understood that the holy 
one refused to be carried from his place without 
due honour and ceremony — he was even now 
making preparations to do this — and in half an 
hour he and a guard of honour equal to the 
occasion would be there, and would themselves 
bear the holy dead to whatever cemetery they 
might select for his burial. And before the 
mourners could determine what answer to make 
to this astonishing proposal, the jingle of arms 
was heard, and a goodly force of gens d'armes had 
enconijiassed them, bringing a bier as evidence 

5 Q..)i! 


Provincial Life in Egypt 

of their good faith. In a ti-ice, but with all due 
ceremony, the fakir's body was borne away, and 
the mourning crowd decided to follow. 

Sacred trees still exist, and generally mark the 
site of some holy grave, often of a Christian 
martyr whom the present-day Egyptian regards 
as a holy Moslem. There is a very ancient sacred 
tree on the Island of Rhoda, which may be visited 
at the same time as the Kilometer there, though it 
is some way to the north. Its limbs lie almost on 
the ground, and are covered with the nails and 
bits of coloured rag driven in by the suppliants 
to remind the saint of their prayer. It is not a 
very common tree ; the natives call it " nobk," or 
a name which sounds as near to this combination 
of letters as mav be. I have seen the tree planted 
also near the Christian cemeteries of Deronka, 
beyond Assiout. Under the sacred tree of Rhoda 
no vestige of a tomb remains, but the natives say 
that a very holy woman lies there " from a long, 
long time ago." 

Dolls in some places are made most ingeniously 
of clay, moulded round a stick and dried. The 
hair and features are all supplied, and the aroosa 
— the name for a doll is the same as that for a 
bride — is dressed in bright cotton garments. 
Little toys, also, are made of clay, and sold for 
half a farthing, but the Egyptian child is not at 
all dependant on toys, and will amuse himself for 
hours quite contentedly. Lately they have taken 
to playing what they think is football all over the 

Things Seen in Egypt 

country, and are most energetic over it, in spite 
of their fluttering skirts. 

Babies are carried astride on their mothers' 
shoulders in a most picturesque fashion. From 
this perch they gaze at you with those inscrutable 
eyes which seem to be the inheritance of even 
the youngest Eg)'ptian, and will generally respond 
to your advances with grave dignity. But it is 
wise to be careful in this respect, for there is still 
some fear of the evil eye among the rural 
population. Charms to protect the little one may 
generally be seen attached to the front lock of 
hair or suspended round the neck. 

Various gold coins are often strung to the neck- 
lace of the peasant woman. Many of the Moham- 
medans still respect the law of their prophet 
against "usury," which they interpret to mean 
any form of interest, and this means that they 
must either hoard their money or buy jewels or 
some thing that does not bear interest. This was 
the unforeseen factor in the great land gamble 
which ruined so many people in Cairo a year or 
two ago. The Mohanmiedans, who had grown 
rich under the Occupation, did not know what 
to do with their money. It became the fashion 
among them to desire a house and garden like 
those the English were building everywhere out- 
side Cairo, and they bought all they could get 
without any regard to tlie price. It was nothing 
to them that the sum tliey paid represented a 
rental of £ 1,000 to £2,000 a year, and seeing 

Provincial Life in Egypt 

that a house which had cost at the most £3,000 
or £4,000 to build could be sold for anything 
from £12,000 to £30,000, the European builders 
and speculators hastened to acquire all the land 
they could get, in order to build and sell more 
houses at the same fabulous rates, and also flats 
for the dispossessed Europeans who had sold their 
villas. Then Lord Cromer resigned, and the 
reaction set in. The natives did not know what 
might happen next, and the slight check which 
in such a state of things is enough to bring about 
a collapse was given with fatal effect at the time, 
though no doubt with advantage to the future of 
the country. 

Most of the Mohammedans have doubtless 
returned to their primitive practice of burying 
their money in the ground. One man alone was 
known to have £80,000 in gold stored in this way 
a year or two ago. A Moslem in the provinces 
who was seriously ill sent for an English doctor 
from Cairo. It was a long way, and the fee agreed 
upon was £50. After the doctor had prescribed 
for his patient, and was waiting to return to Cairo, 
there was a good deal of fussing in and out, and 
at length one of the male relatives came and 
apologized to the doctor for the delay in pro- 
ducing his fee. The fact was, he explained, that 
the son, who had charge of the key of the shed 
in the garden under which the money was buried, 
had gone out, and no one could get at the store 
till he came back again. 


Things Seen in Egypt 

In March, 1901, the British authorities in Cairo 
established the system of Post-Office Savings Banks. 
The new security was readily taken advantage of 
by the Christians, but the Mohammedans were at 
first suspicious, and even when they realized that 
this was no trap on the part of the Government, 
but a really safe place of deposit for their savings, 
there was still the ditHculty that they were offered 
interest on their money. But the convenience of 
so safe a place of deposit induced them to find a 
way of escape from infringing the law of the 
Koran. They could refuse to receive the interest ; 
and to their honour be it recorded that they did 
so. In the first two years that savings banks 
existed no less than 3,195 Moslem depositors 
refused on religious grounds to receive any interest 
on their money. 

This being the case, the authorities consulted 
the Grand Mufti and other lights of Islam, and a 
law was framed and piil)lished with their sanction 
which was intended to remove these conscientious 
objections. It certainly had some effect, for the 
next year, out of nearly 30,000 depositors, about 
13,000 were Moslems, and of these, 94 were 
described as "Sheikh " or " Ulema." 

All Egyptians, both Copt and Moslem, com- 
pare favourably with ourselves in the matter of 
sobriety. It is one of the ways in which we 
should do well to imitate them. Drunkenness 
exists, of course, but I have mingled freely with 
the poorer classes of both religions for many 


Stereo Copyyi.ilit, Ciidouvod C~ C. y<::u )\>r^. 


This temple is at Thebes. The great altar of sacrifice used to stand in 
this court. Most of the Egyptian temples have been used as Christian 
churches by the early Christians. Theie is an altar in this lemple with 
Coptic crosses. 

Provincial Life in Egypt 

years, and though one permits and the other 
forbids the use of intoxicating liquors, I have 
never seen either a Christian or a Mohammedan 
Egyptian drunk. Berbers sin much more fre- 
quently in this respect ; I cannot say the same of 

Concerning that form of morality which more 
than anything else determines the character and 
development of a nation, the cleavage between 
the two religions is wide and deep. I do not 
wish to enlarge upon this matter, but I think it 
fair to the Christian Egyptians to put one fact on 
record concerning them. To quote the words of 
an Englishman who has lived for years among 
them, both in Cairo and in some of the larger 
provincial towns ; " It should not be forgotten 
that there is not a Coptic woman of public bad 
character in all Egypt." 




IN ancient times Egypt was celebrated for its 
beautiful workmanship in many ways. Some 
of these arts and crafts gradually decayed 
under the blight of the Moslem dominion, and 
many were finally and violently destroyed, so far as 
Egypt was concerned, at the time of the Turkish 
conquest in 1517, when even the Moslem eulo- 
gists of the Sultan admit that he ruined more 
than fifty different Egyptian industries. Still, 
th re is a certain amount of beautiful work done 
in Egypt even now, and there is some hope of a 
revival in this direction. In the old days, the 
most beautiful painting and illuminating was 
done in Egypt, exquisite glass work, gold and 
metal work, and enamelling ; beautiful tiles were 
made, there was exquisite weaving and embroidery, 
and many of these arts were encouraged by some 
of their Moslem rulers. Almost all the specimens 
which have come down to us were preserved 
because they had been wrought for the service 
of the mosques, like the beautiful metal work, 
the glass lamps and the illuminated Korans, 

The Workaday World 

which may be seen in the Arab museum. But 
though there are still many native industries, 
there are only three left of the beautiful handi- 
crafts which flourished in pre-Mohammedan days. 
These are the brass work, the gold and silver 
embroidery on net or cloth, and the wood work. 
In the brass bazaar you may still see a poorly clad 
and apparently uneducated man sit down before 
a plain circle of brass, take a reed pen, and 
without further instrument of any sort proceed 
to draw the most intricate patterns and circles, 
which he next proceeds to hammer out with a 
chisel. In the embroidery stalls another man 
will be stitching down the gold and silver on the 
finest broadcloth, which you used to be able to 
buy here in all the exquisite pale colours loved 
of the time Egyptian, now, alas ! rarely seen. 
Sometimes one feels as if the modern Egyptians 
had a genius for copying the wrong things. They 
copy our bad manners, our hideous (and, for their 
climate, unwholesome) clothes, our machine-made 
furniture and ugly patterns ; but our truthfulness, 
punctuality and honesty they seem to have no 
use for. 

The wood work has been less fortunate, per- 
haps, than the metal work and embroidery, owing 
to the terrible philistinism of the European tourist. 
Nothing will content him but that he must have what 
he fondly calls the genuine old " moosharabieh," 
and the result is that all the beautiful old lattice 
work has been torn out of the native houses and 
117 F 

Things Seen in Egypt 

from the fronts of the once picturesque streets, 
and made up into shapes for which it was never 
designed, and put to uses for which it was never 
intended ; and meanwhile the genuine living 
industry was almost starved out of existence. 
Mere age can have no possible meaning in such 
a connection ; it is not even as if the tourists 
cared to know the history and meaning of the 
things they so recklessly cause to be destroyed. 
However, for some years now there has been a 
steady demand for new ard good work of this 
kind, so there is no more fear of this fine handi- 
craft dying out. 

The origin of its present name, "moosharabieh" 
(spelt in many different ways), lies in the fact 
that these ornamental lattices were made for 
screening the windows of Moslem and the bal- 
conies of Christian houses. They effectually 
prevented any passer-by from seeing into the 
rooms, but did not entirely prevent the ladies 
from seeing out. It was the custom to make 
small recesses in the screen or lattice, just large 
enough to hold a goolla or porous jar of water. 
The wind — of which there is always plenty in 
Egypt — blew through the lattice on the porous 
jar, making the water delightfully cool. These 
recesses were called "shurabieh," or the "place 
of drinking," and the name was gradually applied 
to the whole lattice. What "moosh" means in this 
connection I know not, but "moosh " is the common 
form of the negative — e.g., "moosh owes," "do 7iut 

Pliotohy ll'ilUi. Roie. Chester. 


The ceiling of this tomb is painted a dark blue and covered with golden 
stars, repress niing night. 

The Workaday World 

want." It happens that the native name for a 
carriage of any kind is "arabia," and it also hap- 
pened that the name of the military adventurer 
whose rebellion brought the English into Egypt 
was Arabi. One of the tourists who came out 
soon after the revolt which was followed by the 
British occupation entangled himself delightfully 
in this verbal snare. It was told with glee in 
Cairo that^ on his return to England, he had given 
a lecture on the political state of affairs in Egypt, 
in the course of which he made the following 
statement to his audience : " Egypt is now divided 
into two great parties, one desiring reform under 
the patriot Arabi, and one preferring things to 
remain as they are. The people of the first party 
are called ' Arabias' ; those of the second party are 
known as 'moosh Arabias.' " 

In the older forms of this moosharabia work 
the wood is cut in the form of large, carved, 
wooden beads, and strung on wire. In the newer 
work the uprights are generally in one piece, and 
the rest of the pattern filled in by the joining of 
small pieces. An old panel or two is often worked 
into a new screen, that it may be sold as a genuine 
"antika." It should be mentioned, however, 
that the ordinary uneducated native has not the 
least intention to cheat or lie when he assures 
the indignant tourist that a piece of palpably 
modern work is a beautiful antika. He simply 
cannot understand the Western love for mere age, 
and has adopted the word "antique" into his 
121 F 2 

Things Seen in Egypt 

language with a meaning of his own. He 
observed that whenever a Frangi admired any- 
thing very much he called it an antique. To 
him, therefore, it was evident that the word 
which he heard them repeat so often, and apply 
to so many different things, must mean anything 
extremely precious, and he promptly used it in 
that sense. When a very beautiful alabaster 
reredos was presented to the English church in 
Cairo, fresh from the carver's hands, the natives 
all spoke of the wonderful "antika" which had 

Beside the lattice work, beautiful carving and 
inlaying is done in walnut and other woods. Use 
is often made now of a beautiful red wood which 
has been brought down of late years from the 
Soudan, but this is generally to be met with in 
the Government technical schools, where utility is 
aimed at, and no beautiful work is done for its 
own sake. The inlaying is very costly, and a 
small table in the best work may cost as much 
as £80. 

Other picturesque but coarser handicrafts are 
to be found in many places. In the dim " Hag 
bazaar " they cover sail and tent cloth with curious 
patterns cut out in red and blue cotton, and sewn 
on to the cloth in a sort of applique. Panels of 
these are now specially made to sell to the tourists. 
They are generally ingenious copies of some scene 
on the monuments. In the shoe bazaar long 
lines of the red and yellow slippers light up the 


The Workaday World 

scene with vivid colour. They are very fond of 
red leather, and use it for native saddles and 
bags and the covers of trays. 

The longer one lives in the East, the better one 
learns to understand the Bible, and an incident of 
daily life will often throw an unexpected light 
upon the text. The mention of red leather 
reminds me of such an incident. In the story 
of Joseph the chief baker tells him a dream 
which he is to interpret, and, according to our 
translation, he says : " I had three white baskets 
on my head, and the birds did eat them out of 
the basket upon my head." In the Revised 
Version the passage is translated, " baskets of 
white bread." Either statement appears intel- 
ligible enough, but neither is correct, as I learned 
from a gentleman whose long residence in the 
East and familiarity with Oriental tongues had 
specially qualified him to give an opinion. The 
expression translated "white baskets" is not 
Hebrew at all ; it is an old Egyptian word left 
untranslated in the original, and it is still in use 
among the present Egyptians, but it signifies " red 
leather." This was for some time a puzzle to the 
scholar in question, as he could not see what con- 
nection red leather could have with the passage 
in Genesis. Now, the kitchen establishment of a 
rich Egyptian is often separated from the house 
itself. When the meal is ready it is arranged in 
round, flat trays or baskets, covered with more or 
less handsome covers of embroidered material, and 

Things Seen in Egypt 

carried on the heads of the kitchen attendants to 
the dining-room. In Arabic the ordinary word for 
a basket is " zambil," for a tray " sonnea." But, 
passing by one of these establishments one day, 
this gentleman observed that the baskets were 
particularly handsome, and entirely covered with 
red leather. He stopped and asked the cook 
what was the name of these baskets. " Those r" 
said the cook. " Those are 'sellah hurl.' " It was 
the identical expression used in Genesis, and the 
mystery was explained. 

Very few visitors seem to know the cotton 
bazaar in Cairo, yet it is well worth a visit, not 
only because it is a very picturesque, if insanitary, 
place, but because it is one of the few almost 
perfect examples left in Cairo of a khan for 
travellers. In just such a place as this our Saviour 
must have been born at Bethlehem. There is 
the court for the animals, all driven in and herded 
here for the night in the days long ago, when 
this khan was used for its original purpose, and 
all round are deep arched recesses, with stone 
platforms in front of them, where the herdsmen 
and servants in charge of the animals slept. 
Above this and all round it, with an awning or 
light roof to the court, ran the rooms of the inn 
proper looking into the court. The only entrance 
to the place is through a low, narrow, arched way, 
which leads from the court, under the inn, to the 
street. Now the arched recesses are filled with 
brightly coloured cottons — stripes for the men 


The Workaday World 

only, other patterns for the women. I discovered 
once that my native servants were rather scan- 
dalized because I had bought myself a dress of 
the striped cotton which should only be worn by 
men. On the platforms sit the merchants with 
their scribes. It was in such a recess as this that 
Joseph and Mary had to take refuge " because 
there was no room for them in the inn." 

Behind the cotton bazaar the weavers of silk 
ends to cotton cloths may be seen at their work. 
There are many qualities of Egyptian silks ; the 
best is very expensive, but the tourists generally 
buy a quality which, though half cotton, has the 
merit of washing well and looking well to the last. 
It is always woven in fine stripes, and generally in 
beautiful colours. The true Egyptian, whether 
Copt or Moslem, has a fine sense for beautiful 
colour; though in these days, since he has 
abandoned his own cool and clean garments of 
silk and cotton for our stove-pipe abominations in 
cheap woollens, which attract dirt and infection of 
every kind, he has very little chance of showing 
it. It is the mongrel population of Turk, Arab, 
Negro, and Berber which loves gaudy colours and 
aniline dyes. 

Mat-making is also carried on in Cairo, though 
the finer kinds of mats come from the provinces, 
where also most of the pottery is made. The red 
and black glazed pottery which is to be bought 
in the Cairo bazaars comes from Assiout. 

In all the native bazaars quite tiny boys may 

Things Seen in Egypt 

be seen hard at work and very proud of them- 
selves. They are brought up to their fathers' 
trades at a very early age in the tiny raised open 
shops along the different bazaars. 

One of the oldest industries in Egypt is the 
working of tin. They will extemporize a forge on 
the bare ground at almost any moment to tin the 
saucepans of the household, or mend anything that 
may be brought to them. One striking bit of 
evidence for the Egyptian origin at some long 
past time of the European gipsies is the fact that 
Zingari, one of their many names, is the old 
Egyptian word for a tinsmith or tinker, still in 
common use. 

The water-carriers are a very familiar sight in 
Cairo, though the modem water-carts have driven 
them from the principal streets. They fetch the 
water from the Nile to the houses where the 
women of the family are too well off to work in 
the fields, or go down with their jars to the river, 
and they still water some small streets where the 
carts cannot go. A favourite form of charity with 
the well-to-do natives is to set a zeyr outside his 
house for the benefit of the thirsty passers-by, and 
this he pays a water-carrier to keep full regularly. 
The water-sellers, too, are often hired by some rich 
man to dispense water gratuitously to everyone 
for the day, generally some day of feast. The 
seller carries his supply in a zeyr upon his back, 
with a branch of green leaves by way of stopper. 
He has two brass cups which he clinks together to 


The Workaday World 

attract attention. He generally carries a goolla 
also, and it is curious to watch the demeanour of 
one of these men in a crowd on an occasion when 
he has received a certain sum for the day, since he 
never asks or waits for money. But the observer 
will notice that if he thinks the man who asks 
him for water will give him a tiny coin for himself 
he offers the goolla ; if it is a child or a poor person, 
he offers the brass cup. I watched one of these 
men moving about for some time one day, and 
once or twice when a well-dressed man asked him 
for water he offered the brass cup instead of the 
goolla. I thought to myself that surely these men 
will put the para (a fortieth part of twopence-half- 
penny) into the bowl for him. But the water- 
seller never made a mistake in his prognostication. 

The lemonade or sherbet seller is an even more 
picturesque sight ; his jar is of glass and highly 
ornamented, and he wears a large and gaily 
patterned red handkei-chief by way of apron. 
There are also liquorice-water sellers, who generally 
wheel their store upon a hand-cart, and sweetmeat 
sellers of every kind, who carry an affass stand for 
their round tray. 

Affass-making is an industry practised all over 
Egypt from the earliest ages. The first letter of 
the word is one of those tiresome sounds which no 
one European letter can represent, so some call it 
"affass," and some "gaffas" (hard g), and some 
"kaffass." The material used is the long rib of a 
date-palm leaf when all the leaflets and thorns have 

Things Seen in Egypt 

been removed, and these are turned to endless uses. 
An afFass generally means a strong rough crate 
made of these palm-leaf ribs, but they also make 
divans, bedsteads, circular tray stands, and many 
other things. At a certain time of the year as 
many palm-leaves as the tree will spare are cut for 
aftass-making. This harvest leaves the palm a 
denuded and ungainly object, and spoils the 
appearance of the country very much, but it is too 
valuable to forgo. 

Before the English occupied the country, every 
possible use of the palm-tree was made an excuse 
for a different tax, and the tax on the tree itself 
was so heavy that, rather than pay it year by year 
while the tree was growing up, they rooted up the 
young seedlings. Now the country is once more 
full of palm-trees in every stage of growth. 

Boat-building, of course, has always been carried 
on in Egypt, and visitors to the Museum in Cairo 
should not fail to notice the models of various 
ancient Egyptian boats taken from the tombs. 
Navigation is said to employ more hands in Egypt 
than any other calling except agriculture, but of 
late years com})laints have been made that it is very 
difficult to obtain sailors on the Nile, and owing 
to the construction of enormous barrages without 
any efficient provision for dredging or keeping the 
water-way open, navigation becomes more difficult 
every year. The sailors are all Egyptian or 
Berberin, mostly the former. The Arab prefers 
his " ship of the desert," and does not embark 



The lofty lateen sails catch all the air there is, even when i\nder the 
lee of the high river-banks. 

The Workaday World 

on water if he can help it. The long-drawn 
chants of the sailors are curious, though hardly 
musical from our point of view. The Egyptian, 
however, considers our point of view barbarous, 
our music unrestful noise, and much prefers his 
own half-tones and long - sustained notes. In 
the matter of keeping time they are certainly 

Building and stone-cutting are also flourishing 
trades, though the beautiful stone carving lavished 
on every church — never on mere houses — ^in the 
early centuries of Egyptian Christianity was long 
ago persecuted out of existence. Fragments of it 
may be seen in the latest room at the Museum, 
and are occasionally unearthed from the ruins of 
some church. But as the Egyptians, like their 
pagan forefathers, kept their best stone work for 
their temples of worship, which in the case of 
the Christians were deliberately and constantly 
destroyed by the Moslems, only the pillars and 
other carved ornaments which were taken by force 
for the adornment of mosques survive to this day, 
and must be looked for in the oldest and largest 
mosques of every town. In one of the largest 
mosques of Mohallet el Kebir there are over 
seventy of these Christian pillars, but they may 
be found almost everywhere. 

The glass industry has quite perished, and 

though the salt deserts, if fairly near towns, are 

as suitable for glass-making as they were centuries 

ago, it is not likely ever to revive. Like the finer 


Things Seen in Egypt 

kinds of Japanese enamel, it needs more care and 
hand labour than this commercial age has time 
for. There are still some beautiful examples of 
glass lamps in the Arab Museum, dating from tlie 
last three centuries before the Turkish conquest. 
These were made for mosques ; those made for the 
earlier Christian churches were all destroyed. I 
have seen a beautiful platter of glass among the 
sacred vessels in an Egyptian church, but could 
not ascertain its date. The sacramental vessels 
were often made of glass after the gold and silver 
vessels had been seized by the Moslems, just as 
the destroyed churches were rebuilt each time 
in meaner materials in order not to attract the 
cupidity of the Moslem rulers. 




THE great characteristic of the ancient faith of 
Egypt, which survived through thousands of 
years of development, change, decay, and 
even death — for this one vital truth of the dead 
religion linked it with the Christian religion, which 
finally overcame it — is the faith in a future life. 
In the earliest times of which we have written 
record — that is, not less than 4,000, and probably 
5,000, years before Christ — this future life was 
not to be compared with the life on earth. The 
dead man was saved from actual annihilation by 
the pious care of his friends, who embalmed his 
body that it might not decay, and brought food, 
which the recital of the prescribed formulas ren- 
dered serviceable to him for nourishment 

But the dead thus preserved were no better off 
than the dead in the Greek Hades, that dim 
abode "where dwell the senseless dead, the 
phantoms of men outworn." 

" Rather would I live above ground as the 
hireling of another," says the great Achilles when 
Odysseus found him in Hades, " with a landless 

Things Seen in Egypt 

man, who had no great liveUhood, than bear sway 
among all the dead that be departed." 

" Other spirits of the dead that be departed 
stood sorrowing, and each one asked of those that 
were dear to them." 

And, again, Teiresias says : 

" Wretched man, wherefore hast thou left the 
sunlight and come hither to behold the dead, and 
a land desolate of joy ?" 

These were not the dead that were in punish- 
ment ; they were receiving the most that the 
future life had to offer ; and in the same way the 
Egyptian dead are described as " enveloped in 
perpetual gloom," " inert, and incapable of return- 
ing to enjoy the light of the world." 

Then came Osiris, the first of the dead to 
escape from this gloomy world, the way for him 
to do so being discovered by the great love and 
untiring efforts of his wife, sister, and son, aided 
by Anubis and Thoth. Osiris rose to a real 
jojous life in the heaven of the gods, whei*e he 
was given to reign over a glorious paradise — " the 
fields of Talu " — and to receive there the souls 
of all those Egyptians who were capable of 
following him. The name Osiris gradually came 
to denote, not only the god-man himself, but also 
the spirits of all those who, by virtue of the same 
beliefs and rites, had succeeded in escaping from 
Hades and entering his happy paradise. 

It was rather a material paradise, perhaps, with 
its perpetual feasting, never-failing flowers and 



The charmer will suddenly throw his cobras at one's feet. As well as the 
snakes, a monitor may be seen. It looks Hke a small crocodile. When not 
performing he will carry it on his head and the cobras in a bag. 

The Ancient Faith 

fruit, and enlarged bodily powers. But it was an 
advance upon the older conception, and by-and-by 
grew up the further idea of the "bird soul " ranging 
all the courts of heaven. In whatever condition, 
however, the happy soul was more or lees dependent 
on those on earth. The proper formula must be 
recited on earth to sustain the freed soul in heaven,, 
and everyone was ready to perform this pious duty, 
that in his turn he might receive the benefit. The 
following is a sample of the injunction to all passers- 
by engraved over a tomb of the twelfth dynasty : 

" O ye princes, O ye first prophets, O ye high 
priests, O ye priests, celebrant and initiated into 
the mysteries, O ye lay prophets, O ye officials, 
O ye dwellers in your cities, all who may be in 
this temple, and who, passing by, may recite this 
formula ; If you desire that Osiris Khontamentik 
may never cease to offer you his festival cakes, or 
if you desire that the jackal Uapuatitu, your god, 
whose love is sweet, should make your heart glad 
like the heart of a king for ever and ever, if you 
love life and hate death, and if you desire strength 
for your children, say with your mouth the Formula 
for thousands of bread, wine and cakes, oxen^ 
geese, perfumes, garments and all things good 
and pure which are for the life of a god to the 
Ka of Sahot pabri, son of the lady Moutnibdidit." 

At the funeral the priests offered sacrifices of 

clean animals and libations of drink offerings, and 

a great funeral feast was held in accordance with 

the means of the mourners. Isis and Nephthys, 


Things Seen in Egypt 

the two goddesses whose love had found out for 
Osiris the way to escape from Hades, were often 
represented by images in the tomb as guardians 
of the dead. But the offerings and funeral feasts 
were repeated on certain days by the relations of 
the deceased, although for the spiritual sustenance 
of the dead the mere recital of the prescribed 
formula were enough. 

Not only food, but servants, were provided for 
the dead by their faithful friends. The little 
images of glazed blue earthenware which are still 
to be met with in thousands in Egypt (many of 
them of modern manufacture) were buried with the 
necessary formula which would give life to them 
in the other world, that they might serve the dead 
man. These spirit servants were the earliest form 
of the belief in genie, who could be invoked by one 
who knew the proper formula, and made to serve 
him. On most of them are written the following 
injunctions in the form of an address and a reply : 
"O Ushabti figures: If the Osiris [i.e., the 
deceased] is decreed to do any work whatever 
in the Underworld, may all obstacles be cast 
down in front of him !" 

" Here am I, ready whenever thou callest." 
" O ye figures : Be ye ever watchful to work, 
to plough and sow the fields, to water the canals 
(fill the canals with water), and to carry sand from 
the east to the west." 

" Here am I, ready whenever thou callest." 
There was a further advance in religious thought 

The Ancient Faith 

when the resurrection from the dead became 
dependant not so much on the due performance 
of certain rites and the recital of prescribed 
formula as upon right conduct in this present 
world. Then the dead, before the life-giving 
rites were allowed to be performed, were brought 
to judgment in the hall of Osiris, and were called 
upon to make solemn declaration that they had 
not committed the forty-two sins. Among these 
are the following : 

" I have never committed any fraud against 
men. I have never borne false witness. I do not 
know falsehood. I have not caused grief to the 
widow. I have not been idle. I have killed no 
one. I have not seized upon any fields," etc. 

Then his soul was weighed in the balance, and 
Thoth inscribed the result and proclaimed the 

The worship of animals belongs to the period 
of the decay and death of the national faith. It 
is probable that the animals were at first merely 
the heraldic sign to denote each nome. Then 
the animal became " tabu," and from this to 
worship on the part of the ignorant masses was 
no long transition. 

For many of the more intellectual among the 
Egyptians of the first century a.d. the preaching 
of the Christian religion must have seemed like 
a call to reform, and to return to the old faith 
in the god-man Osiris, who in these latter days 
had manifested himself once more upon earth. 
143 G 

Things Seen in Egypt 

In the cross they saw their old sign of eternal 
hfe — the key of that Hfe which Christ, Hke Osiris, 
came to give them more abundantly. Many of 
the customs which survive even in our Western 
churches to this day were borrowed from the 
ancient Egyptians in the early days of the Church. 
Of these we may instance the surplice — the white 
linen garment of the priests of Isis ; the tonsure, 
which was also a distinguishing mark of the Egyp- 
tian priesthood ; and the use of the ring in the 
marriage service. The ancient Egyptians, before 
the introduction of coinage, used rings of different 
metals for money. In their marriage it was cus- 
tomary for the man to give his wife a ring of gold, 
in token that he thereby endowed her with 
his wealth. This custom continued among the 
Egyptians after their conversion to Christianity, 
and passed from them into the Church at large. 

The Christian code of morals, as we have seen, 
was an advance upon, but in essentials the same 
as, the religious code of Egypt. It also might be 
summed up in the two great divisions — your duty 
to God, and your duty to your neighbour. It 
lacked the final discovery, " Love is the fulfilling 
of law." But the ancient Egyptian, like the 
modern Christian, knew that he lived in the sight 
of God, and under the shadow of the eternal wings. 



After the Feast of Ramadan comes that of Bairam, when the Moslems 
throughout the East enjoy themselves. In Cairo theie is held a fair, in which 
such sights as this are to be seen. 



IN England we are hardly aware of our good 
fortune in having one definite calendar to go 
by, instead of the assortment of odd calendars 
spread over the year with which Egyptian residents 
are troubled. The first official almanac ever pub- 
lished in modern Egypt found it necessary to give 
five, neatly arranged in parallel columns, and every- 
one must reckon with at least three of these in 
ordinary life. If you were asked to give accurately 
the date of a certain event which happened, let us 
say, on All Saints' Day, you must answer : " It was 
on Sunday, the 1st of November, 1908, on the 
19th of November (Julian), the 7th of Shawal, 
1326 (Arabic), the 22nd of Babeh, 1625 (Egyptian), 
and the 7th of Marheshvan, 5669 (Jewish)." This 
answer would be correct if the event had happened 
in the morning. But if it had taken place in the 
evening of the same day, your answer would not 
be the same. For two out of these five calendars 
begin a new day at sunset, so an additional element 
of uncertainty is introduced. Nor is the difference 
of calendar merely an academic question ; three, at 
147 G 2 

Things Seen in Egypt 

least, must be reckoned with in making arrange- 
ments — the English, the Egyptian, and the 
Arabian. A fourth, the Jewish, is becoming 
yearly more important for business people. The 
English and Egyptian months are solar, the 
Moslem and Jewish are lunar. Moreover, the 
various calendars begin from different times of 
the year, and reckon from different periods of the 
world's history. In 1908, after our own New Year 
came the Greek New Year, on January 14. Then 
we had the Moslem New Year on Februai-y 3. But 
the Egyptian considers autumn, his time of sow- 
ing, the beginning of the year — September 1 1, or, 
by the Julian Calendar which the Greeks use, 
August 30. On September 26 came the Jewish 
New Year's Day. His era is the furthest back of 
all — nothing less than the creation of the world ! 
The Greeks (i.e., members of the Greek Church 
in Egypt, who are many of them Egyptians) and 
the English reckon from the probable year of the 
birth of our Lord, but the Arabs and the Moslem 
Egyptians count from the flight of Mohammed in 
A.D. 622, and since that event they have managed 
to get in 1326 years, while we only count 1287. 
The Christian Egyptian dates from the Era of 
Martyrs, or a.d. 284. If you attempt to write 
history in Egypt, this confusion of dates goes far 
to unhiiige the most well-regulated mind. Sooner 
or later you give up the attempt, in fixing the 
dates of long-past events, to attain more than 
approximate accuracy. 


? 0- 

J H " 

2 H ^ 

Some Egyptian Festivals 

But once in many years it happens that all these 
various calenders agree in keeping holiday on the 
same day. This was the case on our Easter 
Monday of I906. It was also Easter Monday for 
the Egyptians, Greeks, and Latins, and some 
Jewish festival as well ; but above all it was Sham- 
el-Nessim, the old Egyptian spring festival, which 
has never ceased to be celebrated here from time 
immemorial by the indigenous population, what- 
ever their religion may happen to be at the time 
of its occurrence. I think this is the only day in 
the year, and that at long intervals, when all Egypt 
makes holiday together. 

There are three other ancient Egyptian festivals 
which all Egyptians celebrate, whether Christian 
or Mohammedan, though, while Sham-el-Nessim is 
more particularly Christian in that its date is fixed 
by the Egyptian Easter Monday, the other two 
are called Mohammedan festivals. Yet both, like 
the Sham-el-Nessim, go by the Egyptian and not 
the Arabian calender, and both are really survivals 
from the pagan worship, being connected with 
the Nile. 

One is now known as the Embabeh Fair, but the 
Egyptians can tell you its real significance. On the 
night of the 11th of Bauneh (June 18) a single 
drop falls from heaven into the Nile, and so blesses 
and begins the rise of the flood which is to re- 
generate the earth. In the old Egyptian religion 
the falling drops were called the tears of Isis, weep- 
ing for Osiris, who has been slain by Typhon and 

Things Seen in Egypt 

seventy-two companions (the days of drought). In 
Christian times it seems probable^ from accounts 
which have come down to us^ that solemn services 
were held on this night ; and sundry experiments 
and calculations were made in order to foretell the 
probable height of the year's flood. Now it is just 
a village fair, which the Mohammedans believe to 
be in honour of a certain Shiekh Embabeh, who, 
if he ever existed, was probably a Christian saint. 
But the Moslems also call the night Leilet-el- 
Nuktah, or the Night of the Drop. 

The other is the old festival of the marriage of 
the Nile with his bride, the land of Egypt. In the 
last few years this festival has lost all its old 
picturesqueness, and in a short time its original 
significance will be forgotten ; for, since the filling 
up of the ancient canal by the English on sanitary 
grounds, it has lost its distinctive character, and 
become an ordinarj' native moulid. It is generally 
held either on the night of Saturday, the 22nd, or 
on the night of Sunday, the 23rd of August, at 
Foum-el-Khalig. But as it is sometimes held as 
early as the 15th, anyone wishing to attend it 
must make inquiries about August 10. 

This festival, like the spring festival, dates from 
the days of the Pharaohs, and is Egyptian, not 
Mohammedan. In those far-away days the cere- 
mony was intended to symbolize the marriage 
of the water with the earth, after which the earth 
brough forth her fruits in due season. (The 
earliest myth which grew up round the symbol 

Some Egyptian Festivals 

called it the union of Osiris and Isis.) The earth 
was wrought into the semblance of a woman which 
was called a bride, and decked as such. She stood 
in the dry bed of the Pharaonic canal, the same 
which was afterwards called the Amnis Trajanus, 
and in our own day the Khalig. Then the dam 
was cut, and the flood rushed in and carried away 
the earthmaiden in his embrace, while the people 
flung offerings into the water. The festival led to 
gross abuses, and when Egypt became Christian 
an attempt was made to abolish it. This was 
found impossible, so a more successful attempt was 
made to change its character. 

The rising of the Nile was represented as due to 
the intercession of the Archangel Michael, whose 
festival occurs early in June, just at the time when .^, 
the Nile generally begins to rise. For the marriage f 
festival in August a Christian service of blessing the 
waters was substituted, and instead of the earthen 
figure, the mummied hand of a martyr — presum- 
ably a virgin martyr — was let down into the water 
to bless it. This hand was solemnly burnt in the 
presence of the Sultan by the Mohammedans in 
one of the many persecutions of the fourteenth 
century. After this, the festival, which both El 
Hakim (about 1012) and El Aziz (about 1194) had 
in vain endeavoured to suppress as a Christian one, 
fell almost entirely into the hands of the Moham- 
medans. Makrizi imagined that the accounts 
given to him of the earlier form of the festival 
referred to the sacrifice of a living virgin. This 

Things Seen in Egypt 

legend, written down by him, was soon as univer- 
sally received as the equally incredible legend of 
Pope Joan in the West, and is still often repeated. 
Ebers gave fresh currency to the story by using it 
as the basis of his novel, " The Bride of the Nile." 
The earthen figure was revived by the Egyptians, 
as the mock wedding was not objected to by their 
conquerors. The bridal procession of boats had 
always been permitted, and still continues ; the 
feast survives as a kind of water carnival, and 
many superstitions have grown round it. At one 
time the conduct of this national festival was 
given, one year to the Arabs, next year to the 
Egyptians, and the year after that to the Jews. 
It then became the custom for the Government 
to fix the celebration for a Saturday, and to fine 
the Jews because they were unable to take their 

There is a very ancient hymn to the Nile, written 
by Ennana, whose story of the two brothers is so 
well known. I need not say that it contains no 
hint of human sacrifice, nor, in the long course of 
Egyptian history, is there any allusion to such a 
practice in connection with this ceremony. Men- 
tion is, however, made of the sacrifice of oxen, 
gazelles, and birds, on the occasion of the Nile 
festival, just as they would have been slain on the 
occasion of any great Egyptian wedding. There 
is never the most distant allusion to any sacrifice of 
a virgin. More than once, however, the mention 
of the birds who cannot descend on the earth in 

1 ■■ ' ' 

* • 

i ': 




Some Egyptian Festivals 

the time of flood reminds one of the passage in 

A third festival connected with the Nile is the 
Youm-el-Selib, or Day of the Cross. This is to 
mark and celebrate the highest point of the Nile 
flood, and occurs about the end of September, or, 
by the Egyptian calender, about the middle of Tut 
(Thoth). But this festival became so entirely 
Christian that it almost lost its national character, 
and its public celebration on the banks of the Nile 
was forbidden after the invasion of the French, 
who, it will be remembered, posed as Moslems 
when they attempted to conquer Egypt (see the 
proclamations of Napoleon). After certain prayers 
and formalities, it had been the custom for a priest 
to throw one of the silver crosses belonging to his 
church into the turbulent water to sanctify it. 
Divers were in waiting, who contended for the 
honour of recovering it. This custom still lingers 
in some of the villages, and even where the 
inhabitants do not venture to celebrate the service 
in public it is often performed privately in the 
churches, like the similar festival of the Epiphany, 
or "the baptism of Christ." 

The great yearly fair at Tantah, in August, has 
also come down from the ancient days, but it has 
long since lost all religious or national significance, 
though the Moslems call it the moulid (birthday) 
of the Sayid Ahmed-el-Bedawi. It is simply a great 
trading fair, very picturesque and very insanitary, 
which yearly becomes less important. At all these 

Things Seen in Egypt 

fairs may be seen the conjurers, the snake-charmers, 
the prize-fighters, dancing-girls, and puppet shows, 
wliich have always appeared at Egyptian fantasias. 
The conjurers are worth looking at ; oddly enough, 
one of the best in Cairo is now a woman. 

Among the purely Mohammedan festivals cele- 
brated in Egypt, the two most important for the 
sight-seer are the Moulid-el-Nubiand the Mahmal, 
or Procession of the Holy Carpet. There are also 
the two great feasts, called the Great Feast and 
the Little Feast, or, by the Europeans and Turks in 
Egypt, Greater and Lesser Bairam. Of course, as 
might be expected in Egypt, the Little Feast is 
much the greater, so far as observance and popular 
estimation is concerned. It marks the close of the 
month's fast of Ramadan, during which the 
Moslem population, as far as possible, turn night 
into day. They are not allowed to eat or drink 
anything during the day, so they make up for it at 
night, or after the sun has set. It is estimated 
that more food is consumed by them during the 
month of the fast than at any other time ; and it 
is interesting to watch them as the hour of gun-fire 
approaches. One of their number, in the European 
houses, where it is chiefly the servants who are con- 
cerned, or a larger group if it is a Moslem house, 
stand at the doorway to listen for the discharge. 
Almost simultaneously with the report there is a 
long-drawn " Ah !" of relief along the road, and the 
watcher disappears within more rapidly than at the 
call of any master to where his fellow-servants are 



Sunset on the Nile is not only one of the most marvellous sights of Eg^pt, I ut 
often yields singularly beautiful effects of light and shade. 

Some Egyptian Festivals 

sitting round the prepared meal waiting for the 
signal to be given. After gun-fire there are not 
many left in the streets, but those who are still at 
work begin upon a radish or a handful of dates 
which are ready in their hands, and your driver 
stops at the nearest water-seller's, and reaches down 
for the readily proffered drink ; after which he 
lights his first cigarette that day, and resumes his 
course, hoping that you are a person sufficiently 
instructed to know that a drive should not be pro- 
longed after sunset in Ramadan. The feast after 
Ramadan lasts for three days. 

The Copts make no fuss about their fasts, though 
they are far more severe and prolonged : forty 
days before Christmas, forty-five before Easter, 
forty after Pentecost ; the three days' fast of 
Nineveh, and fifteen days in August in honour of 
the Virgin Mary, besides the Fridays. Sunset 
brings them no relief ; what food they take, they 
take in the day, and go about their work as usual. 
Not only fish and flesh are forbidden, but milk, 
eggs, cheese, and butter as well. Nothing is per- 
mitted but fruit and vegetables, either raw or 
cooked in water, farinaceous food and plain bread ; 
while in strict households nothing at all must be 
eaten before three o'clock in the afternoon. It is 
obvious that centuries of such a diet for nearly 
five months every year has been one principal 
cause of the weakened energy and stamina of the 

I was interested in a Coptic lad who was dis- 

Things Seen in Egypt 

missed after one year's service in the Government 

railway shops for failing sight, and sent him to an 
American oculist who had worked for many years 
among the poorer classes of Egyptians. His 
report was that he was afraid he could do nothing 
to save the boy's sight, which he would probably 
lose entirely in a year or two. He said such cases 
were constantly brought to him, and were all due 
to one cause, continual semi-starvation. 

I knew that though the boy was fatherless and 
poor, his circumstances by no means forbade him 
to have sufficient nourishment ; so I made inquiries, 
and found that since childhood he had kept all the 
fasts of his Church. I sent for the boy's guardian, 
who was also his parish priest, and reasoned with 
him earnestly on the subject. He was a broad- 
minded and thoughtful man, and though it seemed 
to him a want of faith to suppose that God would 
allow a religious practice to harm his servant, he 
admitted that it was possible that such fasting was 
not acceptable to God, and promised to forbid his 
ward to fast, at anj' rate for a year or two. On 
this understanding I helped the boy to get work 
again. Hissight gradually improved ; he was able 
in a few years to pass an examination, and has done 
well ever since. 

Since the Copts came into contact with English 
and American Christianity, they have realized that 
such practices are far from being essential to 
Christianity, and are very generally giving them 
up. I believe, and am glad to believe, that very 


They are Arabs, and though their dress is picturesque, it is not adapted for 
going aloft or for hurrj-ing. Fortunately, they are seldom called upon to do 


Some Egyptian Festivals 

few Copts of the present day keep these terrible 
fasts, which date from the fourth and succeeding 

The second great feast of the Mohammedans 
does not come after a fast, but corresponds with the 
festival at Mecca, and is held in the month of 

It is the great day of sacrifice, when thousands 
of animals are oifered in the Valley of Muna, and 
is said to commemorate the sacrifice, or rather the 
intended sacrifice, by Abraham of his son, when a 
ram was substituted. But the Moslems say that 
this son was Ishmael, not Isaac. Everywhere 
throughout the Moslem world an animal is sacri- 
ficed on this day by all those who can possibly 
afford any one of the animals allowed for sacrifice. 
Everywhere in Egypt for two or three days before 
you may see the brown ram — the favourite sacri- 
fice — tethered and fed in readiness. 

No dates can be given which will be of any use 
to the visitor for these Mohammedan festivals, 
since, as I have already explained, they vary every 
year. During the thirty years of my stay in Egypt 
they revolved right round the year and came back 
to the same period again, having gained a year 
upon us in the process. Anyone who wishes to see 
them must buy a Government almanac — fortunate 
now in that he is able to do so — and find out for 
himself whether any of them will occur during his 
stay in Egypt. 

The Moulid-el-Nubi is the feast or birthday of 

Things Seen in Egypt 

the Prophet. This has changed very much since 
the suppression of the doseh, but is still a very 
picturesque sight. A great camp is made outside 
Cairo — in recent years at Abbassieh — of hand- 
somely decorated tents belonging to the Moslem 
notables and officials and the various sects of 
dervishes. Here you may still see the zikrs, which 
they are for the most part forbidden now to per- 
form in public. A zikr is a formal attempt on the 
part of several men to induce self-hypnotism in a 
peculiar way. That is what it is ; but, of course, 
that is not what it is called. It is regarded as an 
act of worship. The men sit in a circle — generally 
not a real circle, but a long ellipse — and one takes 
the lead. He recites certain phrases, chiefly the 
names and attributes of Allah, and accompanies it 
with swaying movements of the body which must 
be faithfully copied by all in the circle. Some- 
times the phrase to be repeated consists only of 
one word, such as " Hu " (or " He " in English), and 
the leader continues on one phrase or ejaculation 
for several moments. By-and-by they work them- 
selves up into a state of frenzy ; some fall into 
trance, and some into convulsions. It was a zikr 
of this kind which the tourists used to go and see 
under the name of the " howling dervishes " ; but 
that became so manifestly a public performance 
for money that the more religious Moslems were 
scandalized, and, I believe, succeeded in getting it 
forbidden. These zikrs are performed at most of 
the Moslem festivals, but the best time to see 

Photo by inil R. J.ose. 


This is between the First and Second Cataracts. An empty bottle 
has been thrown from ihe steamer, and the boys are rushing into the 
water to get it. Bottles are treasures here. 

Some Egyptian Festivals 

them is at the Moulid-el-Nubi. There is also a 
tremendous display of fireworks, through which 
Egyptian horses will stand without moving a 
muscle, though squibs actually splutter out on the 
driver's seat, and Syrian or European horses may 
be rearing all round. It is the fashion now to use 
always Syrian or European horses, but the superior 
self-control of the Egyptian renders him very valu- 
able on occasion. 

Besides the fireworks and the zikrs, there are 
all the usual accompaniments of a native fair at 
these festivals, and sweet stalls, for which, in spite 
of the Moslem prohibition against making the 
likeness of anything that has life, the Egyptian 
still makes in sugar images of men and women, 
beasts and birds. One of the most popular enter- 
tainments is the native swing, a curious erection 
on the principle of our " wheels," where divans 
full of men and boys go up and down and round 
with huge enjoyment. Puppet and peep shows 
are always to be seen, and naked prize-fighters 
are not unknown. 

The prettiest of all these " fantasias " is the 
Procession of the Carpet, or, as it is commonly 
called, "The Mahmal." In a slightly varied form 
the procession takes place three times in the year : 
once when the kisweh, or carpet, is taken to the 
mosque, where a special guild of workers embroider 
it ; once when it is packed and taken in the Mahmal 
to salute the Khedive before starting on the pil- 
grimage ; and once on the return of the pilgrims, 


Things Seen in Egypt 

when the carpet that was taken to Mecca the year 
before is brought back to Cairo. It is always 
called the Carpet, but being in Egypt, I need 
hardly say it is not a carpet. It is a set of new 
hangings for the walls of the mosque at Mecca, of 
the stillest possible black silk — black because that 
is the colour of the Abbasside dynasty — em- 
broidered heavily with gold. The embroiderers 
are a special guild of men with a peculiar and 
picturesque dress, and the work is done within 
the precincts of a mosque. 

The best place to see the show is from the open 
Meidan below the citadel, whence the official start 
is made. You start early in the morning, and drive 
up the straight, ugly Mohammed Ali street which 
was drawn with a ruler across the map of that part 
of Cairo, and every house on the line marked pulled 
down. All along the way are parties of dervishes 
carrying the banners of their guilds and chanting 
as they go. Then a Pasha in a gold-embroidered 
coat, with his syce running before him, drives 
along in his victoria. Then two big troopers 
belonging to our military police ride slowly by 
with an elaborate air of being where they are 
accidentally. No British regiment takes part in 
the pageant ; it is Egyptian from beginning to 
end. Though shabby and hideous, the street 'of 
Mohammed Ali terminates superbly, for it passes 
between the Mosque of Sultan Hassan, the gem 
of Saracenic architecture, and the stately Mosque 
of Rifaiyeh, unfortunately not finished. Then we 


Polh the Colossi were erected by Amenoph III. By a cunning device the 
priests used to make mysterious noises to come from the interiors. 

Some Egyptian Festivals 

emerge into an open place, and before us rise the 
citadel and the great mosque where the founder 
of the present dynasty lies buried. Every battle- 
ment, every flight of steps, every parapet, every 
coign of vantage is crowded with men and women 
all aglow with excitement and pleasure, and 
dressed in all the colours of the rainbow, as if 
long garlands of flowers were laid about the old 
buildings. Finally the carriages take up a place 
in the midst of the most good-humoured crowd in 
the world. A tattered beggar asks for baksheesh, 
a travelling fruit-seller offers us pistachio nuts, and 
the inevitable water-carrier, with his tinkling brass 
cup, invites us to drink. But they all take a 
courteous "No" for an answer, and leave us to 
watch the procession. The theatre, wherein the 
pageant is displayed, is an open space beneath the 
towering citadel, and the centre-point of the cere- 
mony is now a little wooden kiosk ; it was once a 
rich crimson velvet tent, where the Khedive or 
his representative takes his state. The Egyptian 
soldiers, in white uniforms and red tarbouches, 
keep the ground, and in their midst, swaying to 
and fro, is the howdah, or covered litter, ablaze 
with spangles and gold, on the hump of a camel 
that will do no more work after bearing that holy 
burden. And this howdah, a square frame with 
a pyramidal top — not the carpet, as is popularly 
supposed — goes by the name which popularly 
describes the whole pageant, the Mahmal. 

At last there is a stir in the crowd — that 
175 H 

Things Seen in Egypt 

peculiar movement we all know when a multitude, 
as it were, pulls itself together before the event 
of the day takes place. Driving rapidly, with 
mounted escort, the Khedive comes up, or his 
Prime Minister, if he should happen to be away. 
The act performed by the Khedive or his deputy 
is simple. Directly he arrives at the kiosk, he 
salutes and is saluted by the high functionaries. 
These great ones are a strangely contrasted group. 
Some are dressed in regulation black frock-coats, 
some in uniforms covered with embroidery, others, 
like the Sheikh-el-Islam or the Sheikh-el-Saddatt, 
sit sublime in robes of silk and turbans worthy of 
Abdallah- el -Hadji in "The Talisman." After 
salutations given and received the music bursts 
out, and the camel, with its glittering howdah or 
tabernacle flashing in the sun, goes round and 
round sometimes three, sometimes seven times, 
while the dervishes on the attendant camels utter 
their strange shrill note of joy, and all the spec- 
tators echo the sound, and thrill with excitement 
and sympathy. 

At last the camel is brought up, very dizzy 
probably, before the steps of the little kiosk, and 
the officer in charge of the pilgrimage takes a 
crimson cord which hangs from the Mahmal, and 
places it in the hand of the Khedive's representa- 
tive, who kisses it reverently and wishes the Hadj 
" God speed." Loudly boom the kettledrums, 
shrilly sound the pipes, and the cannon thunder a 
royal salute from overhead as the procession starts 

Some Egyptian Festivals 

on its way through the murmuring, rejoicing 
multitude on the first stage to Mecca. This stage 
is not a long one, but only as far as Abbassieh, 
where they will all repose for a day and a half, and 
then the gay trappings of the camels will be taken 
off, and the housings sewn with beads and the head- 
stalls glittering with scraps of looking-glass will be 
unbuckled ; and, soberly equipped like 

"Warriors for the working day," 

the bona-fide pilgrims will really start, and the 
properties that are brought out every year for the 
great fantasia of the Mahmal will be stowed away 
until they are next wanted. 

After the Mahmal itself follows a larger or 
smaller procession, according to whether it is the 
first or second progress of the carpet. On the first 
occasion it is not packed up in the howdah, but 
displayed on wooden frames, which are carried by 
relays of natives. There will often be one or two 
of the beautiful old litters in which great Moslem 
ladies used to go on pilgrimage with a suitable 
retinue.' These are slung between two camels, 
gaily caparisoned in scarlet cloth, like all the rest 
who take part in the procession. The camels are 
one behind, the other before the litter, and the 
ladies, though secluded themselves, have a good 
view of everything that goes on. 

The pilgrims go by train to Suez, and then take 
steamer to Jeddah. It was a sad blow to the old 
conservatism of Islam when the holy carpet and 

i.77 H 2 

Things Seen in Egypt 

the holy people were thrust into i-ailway carriages. 
Sinister rumour says that a telegraph-wire injured 
the pyramid -shaped top of the Mahmal, which was 
a bad omen ; but, fortunately, nothing came of it. 
As it is, even in these days of comparative luxury, 
the pilgrims brave many hardships. They suffer 
from fatigue and heat and close-packing, and the 
fevers generated by these conditions ; but those 
who do get back are happy men, and troops of 
friends will hail their returning feet. 

When the chief dangers of the long journey are 
over, and the pilgrims are well on their homeward 
way, they will write letters to their fathers and 
brothers and all their home-keeping kinsfolk, pour- 
ing forth gratitude to God, who, by the mouth of 
His servant Abraham,* enjoined men to make a 
pilgrimage to the house of their God. 

Then those friends who have stayed behind 
paint on the whitewashed walls of the houses 
pictures of locomotive engines, and ships, and palm- 
trees, and raging lions, to show how the occupant 
has travelled by land and sea, and has braved 
dangers from wild beasts, but is now returned safe 
and sound ; and when he is nigh to the city they 
bring him on his way with torches and music, so 
that the coming back, as well as the going forth, 
of the Mahmal is a time of festivity and joy. 

A curious incident took place on the first 
occasion on which the ceremony was performed 

* Koran, chap, xxiii., or the Pilgrimage. 


Some Egyptian Festivals 

after Egypt had been occupied by British troops. 
There was practically no Egyptian army or police 
at the time, and there was some danger of a 
fanatical outbreak. On the pretext, therefore, of 
doing special honour to the occasion, the Khedive 
was informed that the British army would parade 
in the Square, and take charge of the procession 
But in giving this order the authorities had 
reckoned without Tommy, and very soon found 
their mistake. Tommy was not quite so well 
educated then as he is now, and believed that when 
he was told to salute the Mahnial, he was told to 
join in an act of idolatrous worship to a heathen 
idol. So Tommy — all honour to him for it — flatly 
refused. Collectively and individually he gave his 
officers to understand that in this matter he could 
not obey them. " Be it known unto thee " — 
perhaps that utterance of supreme faith rang in 
the hearts of some of them — " that we will not 
worship the golden image." 

There were hasty and secret consultations among 
the high authorities, who were supposed to know 
nothing of Tommy's intimation, and an ingenious 
compromise was arrived at. It was arranged that 
directly the Khedive had sped the Mahmal with 
the accustomed ceremony, he should at once enter 
his carriage, and drive across and away on the other 
side of the Square from that on which the Mahmal 
passed. The few Egyptian troops in the Square 
kept their faces to the Mahmal and reverently 
salaamed. The British troops turned as one man 

Things Seen in Egypt 

and saluted the Khedive, presenting the hind- 
quarters of their horses squarely to the Mahmal. 

There is perhaps hardly a religion or nationality 
in the world which does not find its representative 
somewhere either in Cairo, Alexandria, or Assouan. 
But all the Egyptians proper belong to one of the 
three great religions of the modei*n world — 
Christian, Jewish, or Mohammedan. Of these, by 
far the greater majority are Moslems, though 
several thousands belong to the old Melkite form of 
the Greek Church, and about a million* to the old 
National Church of Egypt. These are the people 
commonly known as Copts — a mispronunciation of 
the ancient name .^gupt, or Egypt. The Jewish 
element in the nation is comparatively small. 
Certain customs and ceremonies which have come 
down to them from their forefathers in ancient 
Egypt are common to all three. The cat is still 
held in more or less reverence, and I do not think 
that any native would put one to death. The 
custom of animal sacrifice still continues, though 
there is generally some excuse made, particularly 
among the Christians, who will readily disavow any 
religious significance, and say that it is merely an 
old custom to kill a beast on certain occasions and 
give the flesh to the poor. This, however, would 
hardly account for the way the animal is sacrificed 
— as in the case of a bride for instance. When 

* The last census, of course, makes theirnumber less than 
this. The Egyptian Christians do not yet realize that they 
need not try any more to conceal or minimize their numbers. 

Some Egyptian Festivals 

people went leisurely up the Nile in dahabiehs, an 
animal was always sacrificed when they arrived 
safely at the first cataract ; but to the European 
traveller it was represented merely as a "back- 
sheesh " from him to the crew that they might 
feast and be merry. The Moslem attaches more 
importance to these sacrifices than the Christian, 
and as a rule believes that evil will befall him if 
they are neglected. A new house must never be 
occupied by the owner till the sacrifice has been 
duly offered upon the threshold. I have been told 
that if an Englishman is sufficiently well loved, his 
servants will make the sacrifice at least of a cock 
at their own expense for him without his knowledge 
sooner than he should suffer. In the great museum 
in Cairo, which no tourist would dream of leaving 
unvisited, and where you can, as it were, walk 
through the history of Egypt for some 7,000 
years (the last 700 must be studied in the " Arab " 
Museum), models of new houses may be found with 
the slain sacrifice across the threshold. 

Among the many ancient myths of which 
explanations are suggested in that wonderful 
collection, you recognize with a start of surprise 
that which describes Venus as rising out of the 
sea. In one of the rooms there is a shrine which 
was dug almost intact out of the great temple of 
Deyr-el-Bahri only a few years ago. It contains 
the representation of Hathor, whom the Greeks 
identified with Aphrodite, or Venus, coming up out 
of the Nile, or sea (the word for the Nile and the 

Things Seen in Egypt 

sea is the same), with the lotus and river reeds 
about her. The goddess is represented in the form 
of a cow, and one remembers also the kine that 
" came up out of the river " in Pharaoh's dream. 
But the Venus that we see rising out of the sea in 
the Cairo Museum was carved by order of the great 
Queen who reigned in Egypt centuries before 
Homer sang of the immortal gods of Greece. 



Stereo Copyright, Vndei-wood &■ U. 


This temple dates from the middle of the fourteenth century B.C. It is a 
mortuary temple, and is really a composite chapel for the Kings of three 
generations— Ramses I., Seti I., and Ramses II. 



IN Cairo itself, apart from the Museum, there is 
but little to be seen of the great Empire 
which dominated the ancient world. But 
though there is so little, thei*e is enough to give 
the traveller a unique experience — one which 
perhaps no other spot in the world can give him. 
In one day's sight-seeing he can include the actual 
and visible remains of a toAvn life which has lasted 
for at least 6,000 years, and probably longer. From 
more than one point of view he can even embrace 
the five towns — Pharaonic, Early Christian, Arabic, 
Medieval, and Modern — in one comprehensive 
glance. The best point, perhaps, is from the 
lofty minarets of Ebn Touloun. There is a less- 
known point of view which is very beautiful, from 
the little hill outside the Roman fortress, one of 
the rubbish-heaps of ruined Babylon. One of the 
many windmills which were erected here — it is 
said by the French — crowns the summit and affords 
a little shelter from the prevailing wind. From 
here we can see the plain right out to the Gizeh 
Pyramids, and the sites of Memphis, Babylon, 

Things Seen in Egypt 

Fostat, and even Cairo lie open before us ; while 
close below us we have a good view of the Roman 
fortress and its old water-gate. There was, twenty 
years ago, a Roman Eagle carved above the sunken 
gate, but it has vanished like so much else. The 
view from the citadel hill is, of course, well known 
to eve?yone, and those who can are advised to 
climb to the top of the steep hill behind it. 

The centre of Egyptian life since the time of 
Mena has been fixed at the apex of the Delta, but 
the gradual shifting process has been from south 
to north, not from east to west, as with most great 
towns. The first of the five towns on this rallying- 
point of Egypt was Memphis, the scanty remains 
of which are covered by the palm-groves between 
the river and Sakhara. Among these palms the 
principal objects to be seen are the colossal statue 
of Rameses II., which lies prostrate and broken 
near the track, and a few stones of the great 
temple of Ptah, on the shore of the village pond, 
all that remains of the sacred lake. Professor 
Petrie is now excavating among these palms, but 
not much has been found yet except some statu- 
ettes. This was the great city founded by Mena at 
a date variously estimated from 5000 to 4750 b.c. 
The only evidence we have still to be seen of 
its former size and importance is the Necropolis, 
which stretches across the desert from Sakhara to 
Gizeh, the most wonderful cemetery in the world. 
Memphis itself was used as a quarry for about a 
thousand years after the most important part of 


The Five Cities 

the city had shifted across the Nile. This hap- 
pened partly because of the river, pai'tly because 
of trade, and partly because, after the invasion of 
Nebuchadnezzar, the growing city on the east bank 
to the north was made, so far as we can gather, 
the political capital as well. This second city was 
called Babylon, and the capital of Egypt was 
known by this name down to the close of the 
thirteenth century. The actual city of Babylon 
was deliberately burnt about a hundred years 
earlier, when the Franks invaded Egypt under 
Amaury, and the Moslem who then reigned in 
Egypt feared that the inhabitants of Babylon — 
a christian and already half-ruined city — would 
rise to join with the Christian invaders. There 
are very few ruins of Babylon left, but one very 
important one is still occupied — the old Roman 
fortress built by Trajan to replace a still earlier 
fortress of Babylon further south, of which hardly 
a trace remains. This Roman fortress has been 
in great part destroyed in our own time, but the 
old water-gate on the south side has been cleared 
out, and may still be seen. In this Roman fortress 
are clustered six of the oldest churches left in 
Egypt, one of which, sunk in the course of 
centuries beneath the ground, and used as a 
crypt to a later church built over it, probably 
dates from the first century. This is the only 
Coptic church that the ordinary tourist ever sees, 
but though of intense interest historically, it is 
not nearly so beautiful as some of the others. 

Things Seen in Egypt 

Whatever may be said of the existing walls and 
pillars in the crypt, there is little doubt that we 
have here the site of the oldest church in the 
world. This part of Babylon, long before the 
fortress was built, was the Jewish quarter of the 
city, founded, or raised to the rank of capital of 
the kingdom, by Nebuchadnezzar ; and to friends 
or relations settled here the infant Jesus is said 
to have been brought by His parents. To this 
Babylon Peter came accompanied by Mark, whom 
he apparently sent on alone to Alexandria. But 
the Jewish synagogue, which, after many changes 
and vicissitudes, is still a Jewish synagogue in this 
quarter of ruined Babylon, claims to go back to 
the time of the prophet Jeremiah, and shows his 
tomb. Jeremiah, we know, did die in Egypt, but 
his dwelling-place is generally supposed to have 
been at Taphanes. 

The name of Memphis only survives in the pages 
of history ; that of Babylon still survives, not in the 
Roman fortress, but applied to a collection of mud 
hovels surrounding an ancient church which still 
exists on the desolate site of the city further 
south, and is known as Deyr Babloun. 

The next town of this five-fold city was built at 
the time of the Arab conquest, and called Fostat, 
because it developed from the camp of the invad- 
ing army. A good deal of this town still exists 
in a ruinous condition, and under the extremely 
inaccurate name of Old Cairo ; but there is prob- 
ably no building now standing which goes back 


The Five Cities 

to the time of the Arab conquest. The site of 
the original mosque built by Arar ebn Aas is there, 
and should certainly be visited by the wanderer, 
but the actual buiklinij which is shown him as the 
Mosque of Arar dates from the tenth and eleventh 
centuries. Still, the first mosque ever built in 
Egypt undoubtedly stood on this spot, and on the 
great Friday of Ramadan in each year the Moslem 
ruler of Egypt must go in state to offer up the 
prescribed worship there. The original mosques 
were open courts, with little beyond the four 
walls ; the minarets and cloisters and, finally, the 
whole plan of the Coptic churches were adopted 
in building mosques as the centuries rolled on. 
All the pillars which stand in the present mosque 
were taken by violence from the Christian churches 
of Babylon, with the exception of those used in the 
latest restoration a few years ago. The Arab city 
of Fostat was built round and to the north of this 

In the Arab Museum may still be seen the oldest 
copy of the Koran in Egypt, probably the oldest in 
the world. It was written for this mosque, and 
was found there during one of the restorations. It 
is in Kufic character, and tradition says that it was 
written by a son-in law of the Prophet. When 
found it was in a terribly damaged condition, and 
only about half of the book remains. It is in- 
structive to compare this with the later copies of 
the Koran, which increase in beauty of workman- 
ship as the Moslem conquerors learnt to turn 

Things Seen in Egypt 

the artistic skill of the Egyptians to their own 

The next of the five cities also marks a new con- 
quest of the country, or, at any rate, a fresh epoch — 
the establishment of Egypt as an independent king- 
dom under a Turk, Ahmed Ebn Touloun. He had 
been sent as Governor to Egypt about a. d. S68, 
but in a few years made himself absolute master of 
the country, and proclaimed himself Sultan — the 
first to assume that title in Egypt, or Babylon, as it 
was then called by Europeans. Having procured 
the recognition of his independent sovereignty by 
an immense bribe (he is said to have found in one 
ancient tomb alone treasure worth 1,000,000 dinars, 
or £600,000), he proceeded to lay out for himself a 
new city north of Fostat, and lying further east, 
nearer to the Mokattam Hills than the river. A 
large part of this site had been used for centuries 
as the burial-place of Jews and Christians, but this 
presented no obstacle to Ahmed Ebn Touloun. 
He gave orders that all tombs were to be de- 
molished, and the material was used in his own 

The new town was surrounded with walls and 
gates, and a magnificent palace, of which, as usual, 
no trace remains, was built for the new Sultan. 
He devoted much care to the water-supply of 
his new city, and, rejecting sundry expedients 
suggested to him, sent for the best architect in 
the kingdom, and desired him to bring water into 
the new city in a form which should be at once 

The Five Cities 

effectual, beautiful, and lasting. The architects 
and mathematicians of Egypt have always been 
Gjpts, and Ahmed Ebn Touloun could find no 
Moslem capable of the work. The name of the 
Christian whom he employed is said to have been 
Ibn Katib el Farghani, afterwards a martyr for his 
faith. He sunk a shaft to a great depth in the 
Southern desert, and brought the water to the new 
town on a lofty aqueduct of innumerable arches, 
much like the one which, in later times, Saladin 
constructed to bring water to his citadel. Both 
aqueducts may be seen to this day. The later one is 
known to every Egyptian tourist ; the earlier one is 
rarely visited : it crosses the desert to the east of 
Babylon and Fostat. 

This aqueduct was considered one of the greatest 
wonders of its day, and when it was finished Ebn 
Touloun rode out in state to see it. But one of the 
workmen had carelessly left a heap of loose build- 
ing material in the wrong place, and the Sultan's 
horse stumbled and fell with him. Ebn Touloun 
was not hurt, but the fall was a bad omen, and he 
was angry. Instead of paying the Christian 
architect for his work, he had him immediately 
arrested and thrown into prison, where he remained 
for some time. 

But when he was firmly established in Egypt as 
an independent Sultan, and all fear of a retributive 
invasion on behalf of the Kaliph was over, Ebn 
Touloun determined to build a mosque for his new 
city which should surpass in size and magnificence 

Things Seen in Egypt 

all others in Egypt. He also desired his mosque 
to be acceptable to Allah, and it was therefore to 
be built in strict accordance with the rules laid 
down in the Koran. The Koran was brought and 
solemnly read before the Sultan, that there might 
be no mistake. But when the command was read 
which absolutely forbade any stolen material what- 
ever to be used in the construction of a mosque, 
Ebn Touloun cried out that such a command was 
impossible. Did anyone ever hear of a beautiful 
mosque being built without at least the pillars for 
its colonnade being taken from the Christian 
churches ? Where else was it possible to obtain 
them ? This one infraction of the law must needs 
be forgiven. 

The news of the Sultan's perplexity soon spread, 
and doubtless the Christians feared that a Moslem 
authority would soon be found who would persuade 
the Sultan that spoliation of the infidels was not 
theft, and might safely be indulged in. But the 
famous Christian architect, languishing in prison, 
was quick to seize his opportunity. He sent to 
assure the Sultan that if the latter would release 
him, he would undertake to build a larger mosque 
with a finer colonnade than any before seen, and 
3'et to observe faithfully the right condition that 
no stolen material should be used. Ebn Touloun 
liberated him on trial, and the architect, by the 
simple expedient, which apparently had occurred to 
no one else, of buildiuir piers instead of stealing 
pillars produced the desired effect. 



— 12 

5 .,->. 

The Five Cities 

The mosque has recently been restored, but 
remains empty and desolate, unvisited except by 
the feet of Christian tourists. It is one of the most 
interesting monuments in Cairo, though it is not 
really in Cairo proper, but is almost the only build- 
ing remaining of the fourth city, the first to be 
called Masr. Masr has always been the Arabic name 
for Egypt, and is applied by the modern Egyptian 
alike to Babylon, Fostat, Masr, and Masr el Kahira. 
It is this part of Cairo surrounding the mosque of 
Ebn Touloun which is really Masr Atika, or Old 
Masr, though that name has been in our time 
given to Fostat and Babylon, and will probably 
never be altered — another instance of the almost 
invariable rule in Egypt that nothing is ever what 
it is called. To try and find out the true original 
name of any place or thing in Egypt is like trying 
to find out the name of the White Knight's song. 
This city of Ebn Touloun's has also been called at 
different times El Katai and El Askar. 

In the latest restoration of the mosque, the 
original Kufic tablet commemorating its erection 
was discovered among the rubbish, and is now 
fixed against one of the walls. The whole place is 
worth the prolonged study of architects and his- 
torians. The chief peculiarity about the mosque is 
the shape of its arches, which are believed to be the 
earliest pointed ones known. It is not so gener- 
ally recognized that they also give the earliest 
example of the inward curve above the capital 
which later developed into the " horseshoe " arch. 
199 I 

Things Seen in Egypt 

There now existed four separate yet contiguous 
cities : Memphis, still existing, though almost 
deserted and falling into ruin, on the west bank ; 
Babylon, which was formerly connected with it by 
a bridge of boats, on the east bank, and now almost 
entirely inhabited by the Christian Egyptians ; 
Fostat, the city of the Arabs ; and Masr, the city of 
the earlier Turkish dominion. The fifth city — the 
nucleus of the present native town — was founded 
to commemorate the conquest of Egypt by a Greek 
general leading the army of the Fatimite Arabs. 

These were the instructions given by the Kaliph 
Moez to his general, one of the Greek children 
who had been brought up in the faith of Islam. 

" You shall enter Fostat in your ordinary clothes ; 
you shall have no need to give battle to the 
inhabitants thereof You shall inhabit the for- 
saken palace of the Children of Touloun, but you 
shall found another city, surnamed El Kahira, to 
which the whole world shall own submission." 

Except for the last clause, this forecast was 
speedily and literally fulfilled. The Greek occu- 
pied the country almost without striking a blow, 
and the new city was founded with the greatest 
solemnity. The materials were laid ready, the 
workmen ranged in their places, and then all 
waited in silence the signal of the astronomers, who 
watched the star of victory. At the precise 
moment the order was given, and with loud cries 
the men fell simultaneously to work. 

The walls of this city were made to include much 

The Five Cities 

of the city of Ebn Touloun, and in many places 
they may still be seen, though most of the gates 
now remaining are of later date. A new mosque, 
of course, was to be built, superior in magnificence 
and sanctity to the great mosques of the older 
cities. It was not only a mosque, but shortly after 
its completion became also a University, and still 
remains the most important University of the 
Moslem world. The sight of the students who 
throng its spacious courts is one of the most 
interesting and picturesque in Cairo. Ladies, 
however, should not visit it alone, as it is a strong- 
hold of fanaticism which a very little provocation 
might render dangerous. The Kaliph Moez had 
not the religious scruples of the Sultan Ebn 
Touloun, and of the forest of clustering pillars in 
this far-famed mosque there is scarcely one that 
has not been taken from some Christian church. 
They are not, however, good specimens, and there 
are hardly any beautiful capitals among them. 
This mosque is not called after the name of its 
builder, which is the usual custom, but is known as 
the Gama-el-Azhar. Here may be seen, in their 
different wards, representatives of all the different 
countries of the East and Africa — Turks, West 
Africans, Syrians, Baghadi, Indians, Kurds, Dar- 
fouri, Sennaari, Nubians, Somali, Arabians, and 

In this medieval Cairo are all the most beautiful 
mosques, descriptions of which are to be found in 
every guide-book. The last one built before the 

20I I 2 

Things Seen in Egypt 

Turkish conquest killed what was left in Egypt of 
the artistic spirit is the well-known El Ghuri, which 
has been restored since the British occupation. 

El Ghuri was a mameluke, or European slave, 
belonging to Kait Bey, who, much to his own 
astonishment, was elected Sultan after the rapid 
murder or deposition of four others in succession 
since Kait Bey died in 14^6. Kansu el Ghuri at 
once refused the perilous honour, declaring that 
he was more accustomed to obey than to com- 
mand. The whole assembly being unanimous, 
however, in declaring that they would except no 
other ruler. El Ghuri consented, after exacting 
from them a solemn oath that if they were dis- 
satisfied with his government there should be no 
rebellion or murder, but that he should be per- 
mitted to retire into private life unharmed. 

He took the throne in 1 501, and after a vigorous 
reign of fifteen years, died on the field of that 
battle which gave Egypt to the Turks. His 
troops had never seen artillery before, and were 
struck with such terror that large numbers of 
them deserted to the enemy at once. El Ghuri, 
attempting to rally his men, fell from his charger, 
and was crushed under the horse-hoofs of his flying 
mamelukes. His nephew, Tuman II., was hastily 
elected, and gave battle once more, but could not 
get his men to stand against these new and terrible 
weapons. Cairo was stormed, and Tuman was 
hanged like a common criminal by the Turkish 
Sultan Selim at the gate of execution. This is the 



The Five Cities 

great gate still remaining beyond the Gama el 
Muaiyad, called the Bab Zawilah. 

The capital of Egypt is still shifting north and 
west, and practically a new and sixth town has 
been built in the last fifty years, which is to all 
intents and purposes European. But no fresh 
name has marked either the later Turkish con- 
quest in 1517, or the new Albanian dynasty 
founded by Mohammed Ali in 1841. Masr el 
Kahira has been shortened by the Europeans into 
Cairo, and that name now covers the remains of 
all the towns except Memphis, which, being on 
the other side of the river, became an absolute 
ruin about the end of the twelfth century. 

In the long-dead pagan city survive two things 
to be seen, a graven image and the fragments of 
a temple. In the Christian city remain thirteen 
churches and the Roman fortress. In the first 
Moslem city of the Eastern Arabs we may see the 
Mosque of Amr. In the second Moslem city of 
the Turks still stands the mosque of Ebn Touloun. 
In the third Moslem city of the Western Arabs 
we find the thriving University. But in the sixth 
great European city neither temple, church, 
mosque nor University has been raised to hallow 
the whole. Instead, we have built a shrine for 
the dead past, a museum which is also a tomb. 




IN the old days it was a beautiful and restful 
thing to go up the Nile. We chose our 
dahabieh or house-boat, decked it with Howers 
in pots and gaily-coloured awnings, laid in a stock 
of books, chose our few companions well, and sailed 
away into a lotus-land of sunshine and silent waters 
for five or six months. Every evening we tied up 
against the bank and walked on shore, or sat to 
watch the sunset colour all the west with crimson 
fire. We bought our supplies as we went of fresh 
meat, poultry, eggs and vegetables, and once or 
twice in the voyage we waited contentedly near 
some village while the crew made and baked a 
fresh supply of bread. Sometimes a halt was 
called to examine one of those forgotten cemeteries 
which honeycomb the desert for miles and miles 
in so many places, the resting-place of all the 
countless unnamed dead who could not afford the 
costly chapels and stone sarcophagi of nobles, 
priests and kings. Even so far away from " civili- 
zation " almost all those at all near the Nile have 
been ransacked and despoiled by the native 


n - 




*-* J3 


J3 U 


= O 

On the Nile 

antiquity dealers. The openings yawn danger- 
ously at your feet except where years of sand 
have partly hidden the work of sacrilegious hands. 
A few shreds of grave-clothing, the broken boai-ds 
of the coffin, are all that remain to bear witness to 
the piety of the ancient Egyptian and the greed 
of his latter-day descendants ; though, indeed, 
tomb-robbing seems to have been a fairly common 
offence even in the old days Where the pottery 
has been broken and left, instead of being carried 
away, it is possible for the initiated to guess the 
date within a century or two. Those that I saw 
in my last journey on the Nile were almost all 
Twelfth Dynasty — that is to say, between 5,000 
and 6,000 years old. 

Or we paused for a day at a ruined, but still 
inhabited town, and in the course of a morning's 
walk could find inscribed stones be'onging to its 
walls or temples with 3,000 years between the 
earliest and the latest date, while stone Christian 
coffins which held the dead of Clement's time 
now serve as troughs for water. 

Sometimes in the desert not far from the Nile 
we came across a bird sanctuary, generally a little 
depression in the sand, hardly to be seen a little 
way off. It is full of low mimosa-bushes, covered 
with what looks like a dense cloud, but is really 
a mass of gossamer, out of which only the topmost 
sprays of green leaf and pale yellow blossom lift 
themselves. Here are found doves, the beautiful 
small bee-eater, and several other birds, all quite 

Things Seen in Egypt 

happy and tame, with their nests probably safe in 
the impenetrable thicket below. 

The birds of Egypt and her southern provinces 
are, some of them, very pretty, but there are not 
very many good songsters among them. Snipe 
are plentiful in the marshes, and great flocks of 
quail and wild-duck pass through the country 
twice a year. The duck are of two or three 
different sorts, and many of them, finding that 
they are allowed sanctuary in the Gizeh Gardens, 
have decided to make it their permanent home. 
The brilliant blue kingfisher may be found along 
the canals, but he is a shy bird, unlike the larger 
black and white kingfisher with its beautiful 
butterfly flight above the water. Of the birds 
seen in Egypt, but not found in England, the hand- 
somest is perhaj)s the sun-bird, or larger bee-eater. 
They come in a radiant flock, like jewels flashing 
in the sunshine, and with a musical whispering 
and calling to each other. It is one of those birds 
that are almost impossible to describe — bronze, 
green, purple, black, steel-blue, brown, bright 
yellow — I think there is even an edge of white 
and a patch of red, all mingled in one glorious 
iridescence. The female, I think, has only six 
colours. Then there is the hoopoe, with its crown 
of feathers, concerning which a pretty legend 
relates that they used not to wear this crest, but 
acquired it in the following manner : A certain 
King was lost with his following in the desert, and 
they were all dying of thirst, when a flock of 


stereo Copyright, Underwood & U. 


The first Nile cataract is to the ri§ht. The tower of Assouan has long 
marked the southern limit of Egypt proper. 

On the Nile 

hoopoes flew up to them. The King desired that 
the caravan should follow the birds, who fluttered 
before them, and led the fainting men straight to 
water. Then the King, who is called Solomon, 
King of the Jews, in some versions of the legend, 
desired to bestow upon the hoopoes crowTis of gold. 
But the hoopoes shrank from the offer, and their 
spokesman said, " O King, give us not crowns of 
gold, for then all men will seek to destroy us 
and possess them ; but give us rather crowns of 
feathers : then shall we remain in safety, yet all 
men shall know that we succoured the King in 
his extremity." So the King commended the 
hoopoes for their wisdom, and gave them the 
crowns of feathers, which they have borne ever 

The Egyptian dove is the prettiest of all its 
kind, with a curious cry, almost like a human 
laugh. It used to sound almost uncanny coming 
fi'om the roof of Cairo Church, where the doves 
sat peeping through the skylights at the kneeling 
congregation below, and appeared to find the sight 
irresistibly funny. You see them everywhere, in 
the gardens of the towns, and in the country along 
the river. There is the blacksmith bird, with its 
single note repeated at intervals like the beat of 
the hammer on the anvil, and a little warbler 
whose low sweet song may be heard from every 
tree in the spring. But the only really beautiful 
songster in Egypt is the one we know so well in 
our English fields, the skylark. The best place 

Things Seen in Egypt 

to hear him is on the banks of the Nile, but not 
if you go by steamer, for then the noise of the 
paddle-wheels alone will drown those " profuse 
strains of unpremeditated art." But as you drop 
down the river in your dahabieh day by day, you 
are followed all the way by the hidden poet, 
showering his rain of melody. As you pass out 
of the sound of one, another takes his place, 
eternally joyous, eternally young. Sometimes 
you can see the tiny speck soaring high above 
the plain, but a moment more, 

"And. dro\vned in yonder lining blue, 
Tlie lark becomes a sightless song. ' ' 

Then, as you drift northward, you come among 
the fields of sleep — 

" Here, where the world is quiet ; 
Here, where all trouble seems 
Dead ; winds and spent waves riot 
In doubtful dreams of dreams, 
I watch the green ticld growing, 
For reaping folk and sowing, 
For harvest time and mowing, 
A sleepy world of streams." 

Swinburne goes on to speak of " bloomless buds 
of poppies," but the great beauty of these opium 
poppies is not when in bud, but in full bloom. As 
they lift their heads upon the bank, and the strong 
sunlight strikes upon them, they are like coloured 
flames against the deep blue of the sky. The 
whole country for miles along the river is radiant 
with them — great chalices of sleep, rose-coloured 

^ ""^ ■ I ■ J ■ rajt til ^^ —- 1 ■ 

stereo Copyright, Uiidenwod 

London &• New York, 


This photograph was taken from the Island of Kigeh. The square build- 
ing to the extreme right is a temple to Isis, but called " Pharaoh's Bed " by 
the natives. It has no roof, and never was finished, but is one of the gems 
of the place. 

On the Nile 

and lilac and pure white. The petals of the pink 
and lilac blossoms deepen in shade as they ap- 
proach the calyx, and they are the most beautiful 
poppies I have ever seen. But even at this stage 
their beauty is baneful ; it is not wise to gather 
them, and their drowsy influence steals through 
the air even across the river. Well may the 
Egyptian call the flower "the father of sleep." 

Then the light grows deeper and brighter, and 
the men shake off their lethargy, and press on to 
their anchorage for the night. The water grows 
purple as the red flame dies out in the west, the 
stars reveal themselves with a brilliancy hardly 
to be imagined in our mist-enshrouded isle, and 
another day of the restful river life has come to 
an end. 

In going south there is generally more of effort, 
for you have not the stream with you, and very 
often the wind against you too. But then, you 
are looking at the longest record of history in the 
world as page after page is unrolled before you. 
Every temple as it comes is a fresh and absorbing 
interest to be studied at leisure. In the old days, 
when you finally arrived at the first cataract, your 
men sacrificed a sheep at your expense, and dressed 
your boat as if for a national festival. 

Then came the steamei's, and the Nile became a 
mere highway to be traversed as soon as possible. 
So many expeditions allowed on the way up, so 
many on the way down ; when a herd of people 
were marshalled round in charge of a conductor, 

Things Seen in Egypt 

fought for by donkey-boys, deafened by cries for 
backsheesh, and came back to the same babel of 
sound on the steamer too exhausted to remember 
much of what they had seen. It was inevitable, 
of course ; one tried to console oneself with the 
reflection that thousands of people were able to 
make the journey to whom otherwise the cost 
would have been prohibitive. But it was difficult 
to be grateful even for that sometimes, when 
observing the kind of people who took advantage 
of the new possibilities. Those who ruined the 
character of the people by throwing money at 
every stopping-place to be scrambled for, and 
allowed themselves to be familiarly handled and 
shouted at by every donkey-boy, were at least well- 
intentioned and generally interested. But on one 
occasion when I went with some friends to revisit 
old haunts by steamer there were tourists — not 
English people — on board who deliberately played 
cards with their backs to the scenery all the way 
up, and grumbled when the boat stopped and they 
were herded off to rush round a ruin. That, of 
course, was their own affair ; but when, on the 
return journey, we found they were getting up a 
petition to the captain not to stop at any more 
of these places, as they wanted to get back to 
Cairo, we English thought it was time to interfere. 
At Assiout we pass the second great barrage on 
the Nile. The first is easily made a day's excursion 
from Cairo to the junction of the two great 
branches which are all that remain now of the 

i-, o 
< 1 

On the Nile 

ancient seven streams of the Nile. This first 
barrage was built by command of Mohammed Ali, 
who laid the foundation-stone with great ceremony 
in 1847. It was designed, like all the others, to 
hold up the water at the time of flood, and incident- 
ally provided a very valuable bridge. But this first 
barrage was no use except as a bridge for the first 
forty or fifty years of its existence. Its construc- 
tion was entrusted to a French engineer named 
Mongel, and the foundations were not strong 
enough to resist the Nile in flood, so that it could 
not be used. It was left for Sir Colin Moncrieff to 
decide that it could and should be made workable, 
and with the assistance of Mr. (now Sir William) 
Willcocks, it was done. After some very exciting 
and critical weeks there came a day when the first 
barrage could be said to work, though for some 
time the working was very risky. When it had 
been demonstrated that the thing could be done, a 
sum of money was at length granted to put it into 
a really efficient state, and two more Englishmen, 
Colonel Western and Mr. Reid, were brought from 
India to take charge of the work. 

Then Sir Colin Monci-ieff sought for the French- 
man, Mongel Bey, who had designed the work so 
many years before. He found him an old man, 
living in poverty and oblivion. Sir Colin left the 
Egyptian Government no rest till it had granted 
him a pension, and he used to report to Mongel 
Bey the progress of the work as if to his chief. On 
one occasion when a critical time had been safely 


Things Seen in Egypt 

■won through, Sir Cohn went to tell Mongel Bey, 
but found that he had just heard of the death of 
his son. He would have retreated, but was urged 
to go in, as the old man sat speechless with grief, 
and they wanted to rouse him from his stupor. 
Sir Colin went into the room, and found several 
Frenchmen who had come to condole with the 
bereaved father. He took his place among them, 
and there was silence for a while ; then, being again 
entreated, Sir Colin whispered to the stricken old 
man, " The barrage is holding up three metres of 

Mongel Bey rose to his feet and flung his arms 
abroad with a gesture of exaltation. " Vous 
entendez, mes amis," he cried aloud. " Trois 
metres 1 Trois metres !" 

It is a pretty and peaceful spot, this parting of 
the rivers, one going to Damietta and one to 
Rosetta. The whole space between the rivers has 
been laid out as a public garden, where scientific 
experiments in horticulture are carried on by an 
Englishman from Kew. At almost all times of the 
year it is lovely, but the most brilliant show used 
to be in the time of the chrysanthemums, which 
do so well out of doors in Egypt. The time of 
orange-blossom is sweet, and also this barrage is 
one of the few places in Egypt where you may see 
a wide expanse of beautiful green turf A wild 
grass, something like the pampas, turns the low- 
lying levels by the river into a sheet of silver at 
its flowering-time. 

The barrage at Assiout has not the same beauty, 




rt 3 

O in 


On the Nile 

and is a terrible hindrance to navigation. Indeed, 
the people who still desire to use their ancient 
water-way do not seem to have received due con- 
sideration in the reforms carried out under British 
supervision. Till a few years ago the native boats 
were still made to pay toll for passing under the 
bridges, which, however necessary, obstructed their 
navigation ; and no proper arrangements have yet 
been made for keeping a clear water-way in a 
channel which we have done so much to denude 
oi water. Still, the barrages are of the greatest 
use in providing water for land hitherto not reached 
at the time of high Nile. Assiout is perhaps the 
busiest trading town in Egypt. Various roads 
stretch across the western desert to the oases, and 
besides the well-known Assiout {lottery, many 
other things are made here. The Coptic girls of 
Assiout embroider the net-scarves with the flat 
gold and silver work which are now so eagerly 
bought by the tourists. They were originally 
made in gold or silver on white net for wedding 
veils, and had the cross embroidered in the places 
where it was to rest on the heads of the bride and 
bridegroom. Then they were embroidered on 
black net to sell to the passing travellers, and now 
they are to be found in all the principal native 
shops of Cairo, and in almost every colour. A good 
one is heavy and costly, but, of course, the demand 
has produced a much cheaper article, from which 
the original significance has entirely departed. 

In the desert to the south of Assiout, just 
beyond the Christian village of Deronka, there is 

Things Seen in Egypt 

an old and curious church cut out of the rock, 
some way up the hill. Since the days of peace 
and prosperity under the English the village 
belonging to it has run down into the plain^ and 
the church is probably now deserted. 

Many curious remains have been found at 
Akhmin, but chiefly of the early Christian period. 
There are several mummies, however, in the 
Museum at Cairo which came from Akhmin (the 
ancient Panopolis), and are interesting as showing 
the transition from the enormous wooden coffins 
of Pharaonic times to the portrait mummies of the 
first Christian centuries. The face is covered by 
a gilded mask, and the body is enveloped in a 
painted cartonnage with crossed bands. On the 
head is a thick crown of flowers. 

Kenneh is also a busy town, but there is no 
great ruin of Ancient Egypt to be seen till we 
come to Balliana, from which the ruins of Abydos 
may be reached. They lie at some distance from 
the present bed of the river, and mark the site of 
the oldest known capital. Probably a scarcity of 
water was one reason why Mena, who heads the 
long list of known Egyptian Pharaohs, founded 
Memphis, and removed the seat of government to 
that city. 

In this district, on the west bank of the Nile, 
lie the great "Red" and "White" monasteries 
founded by Anba Shenouda in the fifth centuiy. 
He was one of the most famous saints of his day, 
and his counsel was sought by statesmen and 

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* T s >. 

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On the Nile 

soldiers. He ruled the whole district in a some- 
what autocratic fashion, as the stories about him 
show. Many of the wealthy landowners in this 
part were still pagan at that time, but woe to the 
man who ill-treated any of his Christian serfs 
within Shenouda's reach. On one occasion, when 
the serfs of some wealthy wine-growers were 
cheated out of their wages, and obliged to pay an 
enormous price for wine which had gone bad, and 
could not otherwise be disposed of, Shenouda 
promptly called out his regiment of monks, and 
destroyed entirely the houses and goods of the 
offenders ! 

At Denderah we meet with the first great 
temple still standing, though many others can be 
traced in ruined towns along the Nile. Denderah 
was rebuilt on the site of a far earlier temple by 
the later Ptolemies, and afterwards by the Roman 
Emperors. It was saved from destruction in later 
centuries, like so many other temples, by the 
fact that it had become absolutely covered from 
view by the mud huts of the poorer peasantry. 

Thebes, now called Luxor, is perhaps the most 
interesting place in Egypt. Here is the great 
temple of Karnak, which took more than two 
thousand years to build, and near two thousand 
more to go to ruin, and still stands in ruin ; the 
history of Egypt, graven in stone, from Usertesen, 
of the Twelfth Dynasty, till the once great empire 
became a Roman province. Here are the great 
roads connecting these wonderful temples, bordered 

229 K 

Things Seen in Egypt 

with sphinxes, of which so many he half ruined 
by the wayside still. Across the river went the 
stately processions from the temples of the east 
bank to the temples of the west. In the bowels of 
those barren hills they laid the mighty dead, so 
many of whose bodies are set out now in glass 
cases to be stared at by the wanderer from the 
lands of the West, which were hardly known to 
exist when the Pharaohs ruled on the Nile. Here, 
on the west bank, is the temple of Egypt's greatest 
Queen, with the long record of her splendid reign 
graven on its walls. It was from a shrine in this 
temple that the Hathor cow was taken which now 
stands in the Egyptian museum. Of the pathetic 
ruined splendours of hundred-gated Thebes many 
learned books have been written, but even if the 
visitor to Egypt had read all those, he would need 
several weeks to see all her remains with an under- 
standing eye. By the tourist steamers he will be 
allowed four days. 

Two more great temples — Esneh and Edfou — 
are passed between Luxor and Assouan, besides 
picturesque Kom Ombo, on the river bank. At 
Esneh another great barrage has just been finished 
which, it is said, will prove an enormous boon to 
the people of the Kenneh district. Esneh is said 
by the natives to be one of the healthiest places 
in Egypt. A good deal of pottery is made here, 
as well as at Keimeh. Then the great river 
narrows slightly, and we come to the first of its 
many cataracts. 




ASSOUAN is the favourite haunt of the 
Egyptian tourist, and enormous hotels have 
been built there in the last few years. A 
few miles to the south the great dam, or barrage, 
stretches its stony rampart across the river, and 
beyond poor Philae floats, beautiful in her dying, 
on a waste of water when the Nile is high. It 
is a work worthy of the ancient Egyptians, but it 
may be questioned whether they would have 
planted it just there. On the island the pagan 
temples still lift their beautiful columns to the 
azure sky, but the Christian churches which 
succeeded them lie in indistinguishable ruin. The 
river here was very beautiful at this point, with 
its many islands, its swift rapids, and broad levels 
of smooth water. Here is the oldest Nile water- 
gauge, graven on the rocks by Pharaoh of old ; 
here are inscriptions of many dates and many 
nationalities throughout the ages which have run 
their course since then. On one bank glass was 
made in very early times, and fragments may still 
be gathered from the desert. Assouan, or the 
231 K 2 

Things Seen in Egypt 

first cataract, was the southern boundary of Egypt 
almost all through the centuries which lie between 
the conquest of Egypt by the Moslems in 640 and 
the expedition by which Mohammed Ali annexed 
the Soudan to Egypt in 1820. By that time the 
once-flourishing Christian kingdoms of the Soudan, 
who had opposed so deteiTuined a front to the 
Moslems that Amr gave up all idea of conquering 
the country, had disappeared. The slave-trade 
which the Arabs had succeeded in establishing had 
led to all the usual horrors of war and massacre ; 
little by little the flourishing towns and stately 
churches had been destroyed, and for some two 
hundred years before the expedition of Mohammed 
Ali the Soudan had been in the hands of a group 
of Arab slave - traders, who called themselves 
sultans, and lived by the wholesale robbery and 
plunder of a dependant population, among whom 
the traces of past Christianity were few and far 
between. So complete was the ruin of this vast 
extent of country that only a little group of 
scholars knew anything of its lost Christian 
civilization, and when the Soudan was finally re- 
occupied by the English in 1899, hardly anyone 
knew that, so far from being a heavy burden on 
Egyptian finance which the military exigencies 
alone could justify, it might very soon be made 
self-supporting, and in time even profitable. 

The southern frontier, however, is not now 
at Assouan, or the cataract just above it, but 
practically at Wady Haifa, though the nominal 

Stereo Copyright, Uftderwood &■ U. . London & Xew } 'or A, 


The enormous bank of sand to the right is of a beautiful orange colour. 


The Southern Province 

boundary is the twenty-second parallel of latitude, 
so that we are still in Egyptian waters as we sail 
by Kalabsha, Dendur, and Abu Simbel. But we 
are here in Nubia, the home of the Berbers, 
which has Korosko for its most important town. 
Here may be seen the Bishareen Arabs, the 
great carriers of all this region. Here still linger 
certain ways of dressing the hair and adornment 
which remind us of the Egyptians who conquered 
this country in prehistoric times. Here, too, one 
suddenly realizes the meaning of two lines of a 
hymn Avhich had always appeared to be nonsense 
before. Whether the author had ever been in 
Nubia or not, he had certainly managed to seize 
upon one of its special characteristics : 

" Where Afric's sunny fountains 
Roll down their golden sand." 

That exactly describes what seems to happen in 
Nubia. You pass by high banks of sand which 
seems absolutely golden in the sunshine, and as 
you watch you see that the sand is running down 
from the top to the bottom like swiftly- moving 

Somewhere not many miles from Korosko must 
lie the remains of the great walled city which 
until the twelfth century formed the northern 
outpost of the Christian kingdoms. It was called 
Primis by the Greeks and Latins ; the Egyptian 
name has not come down to us. The city was 
sacked and destroyed by the Mohammedans about 

Things Seen in Egypt 

the year 1 173, and an account of the Arab invasion 
was written by a contemporary who is generally 
known as Abu Salih, an Armenian who had settled 
in Egypt. 

"In this town," he says, "there were many 
provisions and ammunition and arms . . and 
when they had defeated the Nubians they left the 
town in ruins after conquering it, and they took 
the Nubians who were there prisoners. It is said 
that the number of Nubians was 700,000 — men, 
women, and children; and seven hundred pigs 
were found here. Shamse-ed-Doulah(the Moslem 
general) commanded that the cross on the dome 
of the church should be burnt, and that the call 
to prayer should be chanted by the muezzin from 
its summit. His troops plundered all that there 
was in this district, and pillaged the church 
throughout ; and they killed the pigs. And a 
bishop was found in the city, so he was tortured ; 
but nothing could be found that he could give to 
Shamse-ed-Doulah, who made him prisoner with 
the rest, and he was cast with them into the 
fortress, which is on a high hill and is exceedingly 
strong. Shamse-ed-Doulah left in the town many 
horsemen, and placed with them the provisions 
and the weapons, and ammunition and tools. In 
the town a quantity of cotton was found, which 
he carried off to Kus and sold for a large sum." 

There are several temples between Assouan and 
Wady Haifa, but most of them, though built in 
the Egyptian style, are of Ptolemaic or even of 

The Southern Province 

Roman date. At Amada there are several 
remains of the Twelfth and Eighteenth Dynasties ; 
but the greatest of all — perhaps the greatest in all 
Egypt — is the wonderful rock temple built by 
Rameses the Great, and now known as Abu 

Here sit the solemn guardians of the Southern 
lands, those four giant figures of the Pharaoh for 
whom Moses is said to have conquered Nubia, as 
other generals conquered for him almost the 
whole known world. For more than 3,000 
years they have kept their station, and still sit, 
with calm eyes that gaze eternally upon a 
dwindling woi'ld. 



THERE are two kinds of desert in Egypt — the 
desert sand which is only desert because it is 
left without water, and the desert which is a 
desert because nothing profitable will grow there. 
The latter is generally salt, like the desert which 
stretches away to the Wady Natron, that strange 
remote place which still holds a few scattered 
monasteries, and was once one of the largest 
monastic retreats in the world. It is a curious 
double valley running from north-west to south- 
east, and must once have been more fertile than 
it is now, or it could never have supported so 
large a community as it is known to have done. 
The two valleys are on rather different levels, and 
the depression which runs down them is called 
" the river without water." In the far-olF ages 
there was probably a river here which was not 
waterless ; there is a tradition that one ran here 
which branched off from the Nile as far south as 
Dongola. Within the last thirty years the 
western branch of the Nile broke its banks near 

Stereo Lopyright, Uiidii7i'\d ■: r. / <,m'. ,■ c- .\<ri I'r/C-. 

THE (;HKAT 1'VKA.MI]> of (ilZKH. 

This pyramid is really a tomb 5,000 years old, and is built ot limestone. 

In the Desert 

Beni Salameh, and the body of water thus released 
rushed through a gap in the intervening hills, and 
ran along the Waterless River. Beyond Deyr 
Baramous, the most northerly of the four remain- 
ing monasteries, there are still to be seen great 
trunks of an extinct forest. Now there is only an 
irregular chain of little lakes, generally of the 
most intense blue, like liquid sapphire, but much 
too salt for human use. Water only slightly 
brackish may be had by digging deep enough, 
and each of the monasteries has its own wells 
within the walls. These monasteries are at once 
retreats and cities of refuge where fugitives fi'om 
a persecuting Government have found shelter from 
the days of St. Athanasius until now. But they 
have branch establishments in the Delta where 
more modern work is carried on. They do not 
engage in commerce, as the original settlers did in 
the third century after Christ. It was this first 
band of religious celibates under Ammon who 
discovered the value of the salt and natron de- 
posits in the valley, and regularly worked them 
for export to the Rif, or Delta. By degrees a 
flourishing community grew up of several thousand 
men, all devoted to the service of God, but, unlike 
the hermits and monks of many parts of Egypt, 
all engaged in profitable occupations. A great 
deal of the fine glass for which Egypt was re- 
nowned was made here, and the ruins of their 
glass-works may still be traced. But after the 
Moslem conquest they fell an easy prey to the 

Things Seen in Egypt 

hordes of wandering Arabs who spi-ead over the 
country: the works were deserted, the monasteries 
fell into ruin, and by degrees the valleys relapsed 
into the desolate desert surrounding those four 
last outposts of Christianity which the English 
found when they began again to work the salt 
and soda in the present day. 

There is a certain beauty in the desolation. 
Long tracts of bulrushes grow green in spring 
around the silent lakes, and flocks of birds pause 
there for a day or two on their northward flight. 
One man saw " hundreds of flamingos rise in a 
scarlet cloud " from the dazzling blue water. 
The desert sand here is almost white, and much 
of it is crisp and easy to walk upon. Even when 
you climb up out of the salt lake valley it is not 
absolutely flat, but lies in long, low ridges like 
the slow heaving of a sullen sea. The white 
waste plain stretches away on every side, here 
and there a stunted bush, or a handful of dry and 
dying grass, but even this sign of life ceases 
shortly, and the great desert lies absolutely bare, 
strewn here and there with the whitening bones 
of camels, as with the wreckage of long-past 
storms. In front the low rolling hills shut out all 
glimpse of the fertile Delta to which you are 
returning, and though the English have made a 
little railway to the Wadi Natron since they 
began to try and work the natron deposits again, 
you can still forget it, and find the absolute desert 
a mile or two on either hand. It is the most 


^ h 

In the Desert 

beautiful of all the salt deserts, which exist in 
numerous parts of Egypt. 

But most of the desert of Egypt is only desert 
because it is out of reach of water and cultivation. 
In the spring a host of tiny flowers take advantage 
of the scanty moisture to unfold their pale but 
generally scented petals. And much of this land 
has been won back to cultivation since we occupied 
the country. Every year fresh crops break into 
blossom on the sandy plain ; young trees 20 to 30 
feet high stand in dark rows, where fifteen years 
ago the shifting sands were a constant danger to 
the Tell el Barood Railway. Still, there is plenty 
of desert left for those who like the desert life — the 
long, slow march on camels which liegins at dawn 
and lasts, with the exception of the noonday halt, 
till sunset ; the wonderful sense of infinity which 
the immense horizon gives by day ; the unutter- 
able silence and beauty of the starlit night. The 
mirage is only seen in deserts where water is 
known to exist within twenty or thirty miles — at 
least, that has been my experience. I do not 
know if it is borne out by that of other travellers. 
It is often visible from the desert thi-ough which 
the ships of all nations pass in the Suez Canal, 
a shining blue lake and green shade gladdening 
the eyes of the voyager where only the dry, hot 
sand lies in reality. The vision is also largely 
affected by the sight of the individual. I have 
often been asked to look at the mirage of water 
in the desert beyond Zeitoun, where to me there 

Things Seen in Egypt 

was no illusion of water, only the low blue mist 
passing ov'er the desert in the distance and shim- 
mering in the sun. 

Life in the desert is best enjoyed in summer, 
like so many other things in Egypt. Of late 
years it has become the fashion for winter visitors 
to camp in the desert beyond the Pyramids, but 
then bitter cold winds pi-evail, and not oidy search 
every corner of your tent, but may at any time 
bring it bodily down upon you. But in the 
summer it is good to be in the desert, especially 
at night, when a wonderful sight may be seen 
near the Pyramids. Sitting in a little hollow of 
the far-reaching desert, in the magical after-glow 
when the west burns like a sheet of flame, one is 
surrounded by silent, ghostly shapes, filling the air 
with soundless flutter of wings, showing black as 
they dance and whirl against the blood-red sky. 
One moment there was no sign of movement in 
all the silent landscape ; the next all the air is full 
of this ghostly company, coming forth from the 
tombs when the sinking sun tells the hour of 
their release. One can well understand how 
such a scene may have suggested to the ancient 
Egyptian his conception of the bird-soul escaping 
from the tomb in search of a brighter existence. 
These are not birds, however, but large bats, of a 
species which I believe is peculiar to the tombs 
of Egypt. 

Then the steel-blue nights of the full moon, 
when the clamour of the pariah dogs is hushed 

Stereo Co/>y>-if;ht, I'l:! '-- n ^'- .\'e7u Vo 


Notice how puny the native appears. These statues are in front of 
the rock-hewn temple of Abu Simbel. 

In the Desert 

at last in the villages below, and the intense 
silver light floods everything, revealing much that 
passes unnoticed in the glai'e of the noonday sun. 
From the white, uplifting cliffs of Sakhara you 
look down, as it were, upon a wide sea, but it 
is only the fertile plains melted into an indistin- 
guishable blue haze. It is not necessary to trust 
to memory for the verses of poetry which haunt 
the mind on such nights, for the Egyptian moon 
gives light enough to read the smallest print. 
After the long hot days of the noisy town, it is 
like another world to come out into the wide, 
silent spaces of the Egyptian desert and the 
silent company of the age-long dead. 



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i")*^- > _ "Tix^t? 'g-'^^;^"^' 

BINBING S.p:ct, APn 2 9 196« 



DT Butcher, Edith Louisa 

55 (Floyer) 

B85 Things seen in Eg::rpt